Tone Rangers at Jammin' Java, Vienna, VA, Tuesday 25 May 2004
There were no electric guitars in sight at Jammin' Java on Tuesday as two local a cappella groups powered rock ballads with nothing but their voices. Vox Populi, 15 men and women, opened by alternating between chaotic arrangements of radio hits (Duran Duran's "Rio" and Linkin Park's "In the End") and mellow renditions of older songs (Stephen Bishop's "On and On" and a soulful version of Van Morrison's "Moondance").
Next came the Tone Rangers, a group of eight strait-laced men who spend their days as lobbyists and lawyers. The octet shed those preppy images, singing not one but two Elvis tunes -- complete with pelvic swivels and facial tics. Baritone Mike Beresik even sang "Viva Las Vegas" out of the side of his mouth, just like the King.
Flawless harmonies are a given in a group with eight voices that are consistently pitch-perfect, but the Rangers supplemented that precision with a congenial stage presence. Their arrangements transitioned smoothly (they somehow worked both the "Flintstones" theme and "Chopsticks" into the middle of a love song), and each voice filled the space where a rock band would have put a guitar, a sitar or even a trumpet. The Rangers had their serious moments, too, performing a Yeats poem set to song ("Down by Salley Gardens"), an original composition ("Helen" -- as in, of Troy), and Paul Carrack's "I Need You," which featured Gil Keteltas's sweet tenor gliding gracefully over the melody.
Throughout their 50-minute set, the Rangers showed that through their voices alone they could make any song their own -- and if those "real jobs" on Capitol Hill don't work out, they have a truly solid talent to fall back on.
-- Catherine P. Lewis