The Rock Repertory Ensemble’s show started informally enough — just an introduction by the group’s director, Chris Meeker, a round of applause for the technical staff on the lights and audio, and the first group came out to perform.
But nobody could accuse the Rock Repertory Ensemble of being unserious — from the first song at their concert (simply called “In Concert”) last Thursday, they showed they can seriously rock.
I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first looked through the setlist. Spanning from 1968 to 2009 and across multiple genres of rock, “eclectic” seemed like a generous way to describe the eight-song lineup detailed in the program. There didn’t seem to be much of a unifying theme.
But what first seemed like a potential drawback turned out to be one of the group’s strengths. With 13 members, Rock Repertory is more than just a rock cover band — it’s a group of talented musicians that, between them, can make the transition from Regina Spektor’s “Eet” to The Beatles’ “Come Together” and pull them both off in a way most bands would struggle to do.
Its number of musicians gives the group an impressive breadth of instrumentation that allows them to not only have such a diverse array of songs but to also showcase its members varied skills, from junior Alex Fortier on the piano for Carole King’s “So Far Away” to Kurt Li’s soaring slide guitar licks in The Allman Brothers Band’s “Melissa,” and sophomore Madison Zaelit’s prominent bassline in the beginning of Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time.”
The group reproduced the sound of the original songs with notable accuracy, bringing out many of the songs’ subtle details that can get lost in a cheap pair of headphones but really enrich a live performance. While at times I wanted to see some improvisation and see the guitarists make the songs something of their own, I couldn’t help but be impressed as lead guitarists sophomores David Plotkin and Kurt Li and senior Jeremy Staffa flawlessly executed guitar solos that I had heard hundreds of times before.
On top of the solid foundation of the guitarists, another standout performer was lead vocalist junior Tallis Polashenski. While the vocals were solid across the board, with various vocalists switching out as the needs of each song dictated, it was Polashenski who brought the vocal prowess, stage presence, and energy to truly sell her performances.
It was just one of those powerhouse performances that closed the show. The Rock Repertory Ensemble’s aforementioned performance of “Foreplay/Long Time” showed off technical skill in a variety of instruments, from the keys, bass, and drums of “Foreplay” to the myriad guitar solos and towering high notes throughout “Long Time.” The song garnered the biggest applause of the night, and I was almost immediately disappointed that it was over — I could have listened to them for a much longer time.