In interviews and in its music, Radiohead tosses around references to 20th century classical titans Messiaen and Penderecki. So why shouldn't classical musicians toss around a little Radiohead?
That's just what the Section, a Los Angeles string quartet, did at Largo on Wednesday, adding music originated by Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, the Cure, Incubus and Nine Inch Nails, among others.
Classical-style interpretations of rock music have been around at least since Joshua Rifkin's 1966 "Baroque Beatles" album, but the Section is making a cottage industry of it with a growing series of tribute albums--a dozen so far.
Giving their first headlining concert Wednesday, arranger-violinist Eric Gorfain, second violinist Daphne Chen, violist Leah Katz and cellist Richard Dodd treated an attentive audience to selections from its albums, with guest vocal appearances by Jon Brion, Sheila Nicholls and Grant-Lee Phillips.
They smartly sidestepped the tributees' most obvious songs, and Gorfain's arrangements proved entertainingly spirited and accomplished--although stripped of their words and voices, such tunes as Springsteen's "The River" lost steam after the first verse and chorus. It was the vocal numbers, particularly Phillips soaring on David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes," that were the evening's highlights.
But frankly, with comedian Paul F. Tompkins' dramatic reading of Radiohead's "Fitter Happier" helping set the tone, these classicists seemed a lot less pretentious than the rock stars they honored.