On the evening of Feb. 22, after a grueling and arduous week of midterm exams, students enthusiastically gathered in the Lower Hangar for one of the most anticipated events of the semester hosted by the Board of Campus Activities: Dueling Pianos. Featuring the musical talents of the duelists Nolan and “The Dan,” they entertained their audience with abundant energy and musical virtuosity. Nolan and the “The Dan” are members of Dueling Pianos International and it is no wonder the company was voted Performer of the Year by the Association of Campus Activities.
Dueling pianos is a form of entertainment, usually on stage with two grand pianos, each played by a professional player who sings and entertains; humor and audience participation are prevalent. Usually these types of piano bars have substantial sound systems, and most of the songs performed are rock and roll, classic rock, Top 40, R&B, or country, played primarily by request. The history of dueling pianos dates back to the late 1890’s when ragtime piano players would actually ‘duel’ in an effort to see who could play better and faster. It later evolved in 1933 in New Orleans where two piano players would entertain the crowd on copper-topped grand pianos and players would take turns singing songs requested by the audience written on cocktail napkins. Since 1986, a piano bar called Dallas Alley has redefined dueling pianos to what it is today by a piano duet working together and playing contemporary music, combined with humorous bits that involved lyric substitutions, comedic scenes, and audience participation.
From start to finish, duelists Nolan and “The Dan” passionately strummed the keys of their electric pianos with intense drive. With scribbled song requests from the audience, the duelists performed a multifarious blend of genres ranging from television show themes to songs from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s all the way to today’s top radio hits. The event began with the duelists celebrating an audience member’s birthday by performing a comedic skit and singing the “Happy Birthday” song. Then the duelists played television show themes from Pokemon, Spongebob Squarepants, Big Bang Theory, Dr. Who, Fresh Prince, Captain Planet, Charlie Brown, and Anamaniac’s “Pinky and the Brain.” Nostalgia ran through the audience as some of these themes were last heard over a decade ago. The duelists then proceeded to play ballads from the Disney films with songs like “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King. The 90’s wave continued with popular songs from Britney Spears, Spice Girls, and the Backstreet Boys. The audience also cheerfully sang along to Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping.”
The duelists also paid homage to one of the most popular films of ERAU students: Top Gun. As they were jamming the “Danger Zone” theme, they called up students from the audience to perform the well-known skit of singing “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers. Fans of metal cheered when they heard the duelists perform “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “Crazy Train” by Black Sabbath. The audience also clapped along to one of the most popular rock anthems of all time: Joan Jet’s “I Love Rock’n Roll.” A couple country songs were also played. “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band and “Devil Went Down to Georgia” were all well-received by the audience.
There were also some interesting mash-ups. The duelists combined Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” with “Living on a Prayer” and later proceeded to play a comedic mash-up of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the advertisement theme of the financial services firm JG Wentworth.
Fans of the song from the most watched video on YouTube, PSY’s, “Gangnam Style” rushed to the front of the stage when the duelists asked for the audience to perform the dance from the music video. The duelists continued to play other contemporary hits such as Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO.
Nearing the finale, the duelists jammed to “American Pie.” Free beer and wine were available to students of age and they raised their glasses with gusto singing along to Don Mclean’s signature song. With the last song left, the duelists triumphantly performed Billy Joel’s Piano Man with the audience singing along with zeal.
With such an engaging and outstanding spectacle filled with laughter, cheers, and beers in the air, it is safe to say that students will be eagerly awaiting next year’s duel.