The Rock Orchestra in Providence – November 16, 2023

A dark stage lit, decorated with massive sculptures made out of skulls, and bathed in candlelight, was the scene on Thursday night at The Vets in Providence. The house lights went down, and a dozen musicians in skull/masquerade masks took to the stage. The lead violinist (of four) came center stage, as they played through a classical piece of music. The song came to a pause, and it transitioned into AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” This would set the tone for the rest of the evening, as the group performed orchestral versions of rock hits spanning the last 50 years.

The setlist included a little something for everyone, with classic songs like “Stairway to Heaven,” “Sweet Child ‘o Mine,” and “Ace of Spades.” Then there were hits from the 90’s like Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit,” and No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” For the younger rock fans (of which there were many in attendance) there were 21st century songs like Linkin Park’s “Numb,” System of a Down’s “Chop Suey,” and My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade.”

Occasionally a performer, whether violin or saxaphone, would come center stage for the “guitar” solo of a song. At the climax of said solo, the stage would be bathed in steam cannons, and fountains of sparklers, giving it the true rock-show feel.

The show was not instrumental the entire time, as both a male and female vocalist joined for maybe 40-50% of the songs. I think this was a good choice, as a song such as “Smells like Teen Spirit” is perhaps not that complex musically, and without vocals, likely would have felt repetitive. Both singers gave fine performances, though the female vocalist was often very low in the mix.

All-in-all, this was quite a fun show, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it. If you’re a fan of basically any rock and roll song, and you enjoy orchestral music, don’t pass up a chance to see this blending of styles.

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