LONDON (Reuters) - If you were to list the great cello works, you’d probably say Vivaldi, Bach and Haydn and skip AC/DC, Michael Jackson and Coldplay.
But then that would be before you heard Croatian duo 2Cellos tear up the rule book to give the instrument a rock-star makeover.
Classically trained cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser became overnight Internet sensations when their low-budget video of Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” went viral in 2011, getting three million hits in two weeks.
Fast-forward a few years and they are now worldwide headliners in their own right, and released their third album earlier this year, having performed and collaborated with the likes of guitarist Steve Vai, Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
“We were young and played classical music with lots of energy, but we always had this rock animal inside of us,” Hauser told Reuters before a show this week in London.
The pair cite Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and English cellist Jacqueline du Pré as early influences. Then their musical tastes expanded to Jackson and later AC/DC with its lead guitarist Angus Young. Hauser goes so far as to incorporate a few Young-style antics into the pair’s stage show, - at one point dropping to the floor and circling around on his back, all the while never missing a note.
“We’ve shown all the different possibilities (of the cello), especially when it’s combined with classical music. Who would combine (Gioachino) Rossini opera with Iron Maiden,” Hauser added, referring to the duo’s fusion of the “William Tell Overture” and the metal band’s “The Trooper”, which opens their new album “Celloverse” and kicked-off the London encores.
The show started on a gentle-note with beautiful renditions of songs by Sting and U2, but once the opening notes of “Smooth Criminal” sounded, the crowd went into a frenzy, which only grew as the pair rocked their way through hits from Nirvana, Guns and Roses, and of course AC/DC.
The audience - from children to pensioners - even rushed the stage.
A high-energy jaunt through The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” saw the two try to beat Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at their own game.
But the pair bristles at the suggestion they are a covers band. “When we do something we want it to be something special, something unique, we put our own stamp on it,” Sulic said.
Sulic said much of the classical musical establishment appreciated what the group was doing. “We introduce classical music, especially to the young generation. The kids love what we are doing, we inspire them so the teachers are happy and the parents are happy.”
Cello bows shredded, it was time to take it down a notch in London to end the evening with an impromptu Christmas Carol medley sing along and an elegant rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on the G String”.
Regretting the missed opportunity to collaborate with Jackson, who died in 2009, Hauser said the pair would instead like to work with someone unexpected like American rapper Eminem.
“Imagine hip hop and cello. That would be intense,” he said with a grin.
Editing by Jeremy Gaunt