The event took place in Duke’s Page Auditorium, the campus’s main performance venue. While nicely sized, holding just over 1,200 people, the acoustics in the space are less than ideal, especially for those seated in the back of the orchestra seating. Being a Duke student myself, and knowing this from attending past performances, I found a seat toward the front to avoid as much room coloration as possible.
Duke’s own Out of the Blue opened the evening with a nice jazzy take on Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best.” The soloist for this opening number hit it out of the park, and was backed up by great energy from the rest of the group. The arrangement used colorful notes to keep the jazz flavor from the original, and was a great opener to the set. This was followed by “Tell Me ‘Bout It” by Joss Stone, featuring another strong soloist, and a clever integration of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” toward the end. For me, however, the highlight of the group’s set was their closing number, “Nude” by Radiohead. The choreography for this song was very effective and appropriate—a slow sway that began with the soloist, and slowly progressed toward stage right, until the entire group, initially motionless, was all swaying together. The emotional focus and intensity delivered by the soloist, Monica Villar, was spectacular—both vocally and visually from her stage presence. Overall, the group delivered a very strong performance, especially for this being their first ever performance at a live competition. Transitions between the songs were smooth, and each member was very engaged from beginning to end, never losing focus, which made for a compelling performance.