5 Surreal Rock Band and Orchestra Collaborations

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As Baby Boomers and Generation X members get older and grayer, gone are the wild rock ’n’ roll concerts of their youth, in favor of more cultured events, like symphony orchestra concerts. It didn’t take a marketing genius to figure out that by combining aging rockers with orchestras in concert, rock groups could sell tickets to a show, and then sell the recording on DVD, CD and iTunes. So in recent years a number of hard-rock bands have collaborated with symphony orchestras in concert, creating a strange juxtaposition of music worlds: electric guitars and cellos, leather and tuxedos, tattoos and tubas. We hope you enjoy some of these more surreal collaborations.


5. Aerosmith and the Boston Pops: Walk This Way

Boston-based rock legends Aerosmith and the Boston Pops joined forces for a memorable Independence Day celebration broadcast live on July 4, 2006. One of the things that makes these rock band/orchestra ventures so much fun is seeing horn players, violinists, etc., performing these familiar rock guitar and bass parts. Unfortunately, those moments are quite rare in this performance of Walk This Way, although the image of Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler and longtime Boston Pops director Keith Lockhart screaming the refrain together at around the 2:50 mark is rather fun. By the way, Tyler has said his earliest musical memories came as a toddler, listening to his classically trained father play piano.


4. The Scorpions and the Berlin Philharmonic: Rock You Like a Hurricane

Anyone who recalls the early days of MTV certainly remembers seeing The Scorpions’ strange video for Rock You Like a Hurricane. These are not images you associate with an orchestra. Almost 20 years later, the German heavy metal band released a CD and DVD, Moment of Glory, in 2000 featuring a collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The Scorpions performed live with the orchestra more than a half-dozen times in 2000 and 2001.


3. Styx and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra: Miss America

The band Styx hit the big time in the 1970s and early 1980s with pop hits such as Babe and Come Sail Away. But those songs never defined the real Styx, the Styx that featured plenty of power chords, blistering guitar leads and still has a faithful following more than 30 years past the group’s heyday. In this video, the group, including longtime guitarists and lead vocalists James Young and Tommy Shaw, perform with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland State University. The 2006 concert resulted in a live DVD and CD, One With Everything. Watch as a few of the orchestra members start rocking as Shaw launches into the guitar intro to Miss America, one of the group’s most underrated songs. The original version of the song featured a heavy synthesizer presence that today seems as outdated as the video game Pong, so the CYO’s take on this song is a nice update. The CYO has worked with other noted rock musicians through the years, including Pat Benatar, Graham Nash and Jefferson Starship.


2. Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony: Enter Sandman

Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony collaborated on 21 live songs over a two-day period in 1999, resulting in a multi-platinum CD release (S&M, for Symphony and Metallica) that year. No other song on this list so seamlessly integrates both the rock band and the orchestra.


1. Kiss and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: Rock and Roll All Nite

It’s worth watching this just to see orchestra members performing in Kiss-style makeup. Kiss performed this show in early 2003 with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and released the results later that year on Kiss Symphony: Alive IV. The CD sold relatively well, peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard charts. It’s noteworthy that the CD was the last to feature drummer Peter Criss.


One More: Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

This 1969 concert has been cited as the inspiration for several of the aforementioned rock band/orchestra ventures. Deep Purple teamed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in this performance, which was later released as a live album. The band recorded a similar concert with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1999.

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