You know you've been to an infectiously high-spirited gig when you see grown men (well, large students, anyway) singing multi-part harmonies from Britney Spears songs in the local Sainsburys, round the corner, after the show.
And that really sums up what Out of The Blue is all about - fun, frolicks and really good close-harmony singing.
The first set started with a great video sequence of the group apparently comming from all corners of the globe (and indeed, they'd been there, and taken the videos!), finally converging on the stage door of the New Theatre, and then magically, in person, onto the stage. It was a great opening sequence, and set the stage - quite literally - for what was to follow.
Out of The Blue are a constantly changing group, taking on new members, and saying farewell to veterans every year. That they are able to manage this constant turn-over while remaining a top-quality acapella group is very impressive.
The first set was largely popular songs with one member as soloist, backed by the group. It's amazing to hear the variety of beat-boxing and vocal techniques used to re-imagine songs you'll be used to hearing with a full instrumental band, multi-track studio, and all the tricks of the recording industry, totally re-created for you, live, on stage.
It's equally impressive that these numbers have all been arranged specifically for OOTB by their musical director, Ollie Ralph, and you can hear the skill that has gone into choosing arrangements to suit not only any close-harmony group, but the voices of the group on stage (this year!).
From the inter-song banter and comprehensive program, you get the feeling that this is a very friendly, close-knit group of performers, who really want to get the best out of every opportunity. The first half of the show also gave a lot of solo-time to the newer members of the group, which highlights how inclusive the group is, from the very start.
Part-way through the show there was a quick update and run-down of what the group has been up to so far this (Academic) year. Tales of 'round the world tours' (now we know where the videos came from!) and 'backwards carol singing' gave a quick insight into the whirlwind lifestyle that is being a member of OOTB. A trip to Japan to perform in an international acapella festival, in sold-out 3,500 seater stadiums, and being the only non-professional group there, hints at just how well-known and well-regarded OOTB have become, across the globe.
And rightly so. The second half moved into more 'chorus' territory, with a cleverly-staged 'sing-off/battle of the ballads', some fantastic audience participation (one girl got a birthday present she'll never forget) and some performances by smaller groups with - excellent - niche taste. The rendition of Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger with accompanying robot-dance moves was really fun, and reminded me of the perfomance by fellow acapella maestros - Fork, of Finland - who sang on the same stage earlier in the year (and indeed, referenced OOTB as their friends in Oxford).
There were some truly stunning soloists. Bayo Randle (the group's oldest member) has a meliflous tenor, Ollie Ralph a soaring falsetto and rich, reverberant bass and Selali Fiamanya an effortless baritone.
The group also runs workshops for local schools in the places they perform, and we were treated to a barn-storming rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, with attendant animal impressions and noises created by about 40 school children! The OOTB boys calmly presided over this happy chaos, seemingly at ease training up the next generation.
Subtle use of pyrotechnics added to the show's joie de vivre. You know a show has made it when they have fireworks! A throughly enjoyable evening was rounded off by a very well-chosen encore and had people, quite literally, dancing into the streets.