I entered Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. The place was pretty crowded. I picked a seat near the back. I only came to review, I didn’t want to steal a seat from someone who was particularly enthused about tonight’s Valentine’s Day performance: Shades. I was puzzled. I had to write a review of this. I mulled over some possibilities. What does one say about an a capella performance for the general public? It’s college a capella. And as the night would reveal, it was a college a capella performance to the letter. Big personalities lit up the room. Half the audience: friends and family spreading the love, usually with semi-endearing, semi-obnoxious outbursts. Catchy hits that weren’t particularly scintillating, but (I imagine) appreciated by the couples in the room. Background singers that oftentimes were more captivating than the lead singer with singular sounds emanating somehow, somewhere from their mouths (second singer to the left during the rendition of Sexual Healing: Seriously, how did you do that with your voice?). Speaking of odd sounds, there was a beat-spitter that I could not detect from amongst the group, so kudos to being the Where’s Waldo I could not complete of the night.
I questioned some of the crowd members about their opinions of love, thinking it would be good review fodder. When I asked one person the question, they had an immediately recognizable reaction of disgust. I don’t know what they were doing at a Valentine’s Day show. Another person said that love was putting someone else’s needs before your own. I got this answer several times, which makes me inclined to believe that this was not of life experience but from a heart-warming sitcom (or maybe three) that was popular a few years ago. I could be wrong. One person said to care about someone more than yourself. Three people very adamantly said it was specifically being attracted to the spiritual qualities in that person, not the physical. It was about higher natures, they said — about us being made in the image of god. One also informed me that he’d never been to Toad’s Place. He was notified that he was not missing out.
Perhaps what I drew most from the atmosphere, from the audience and the show itself, was that people could clearly “sense” love, but nobody really knew what it was. The only common factor was an uneasy certainty, which then made their answers seem more like safe havens than confident assurances — there are a lot of interpretations of love that were handed down to us that we haven’t inspected personally — that the science of love has not been too stringent, at least for us young Yalies. Perhaps that’s what the music was for — to remind us of the something else not conveyed in those couched answers. Watching the audience in the show, it certainly seemed to do the trick, with everyone hollering and snapping their fingers and generally having an enthusiastic time. But in the silence following, no one could still tell me what exactly they had learned. All they had was what they came with.