Magicians are inherently nerds, regardless of whether or not they lean in to it in their shows. In the more interesting shows they might reveal their nerdiness about something other than magic, and Neil Kelso does in Sounds Impossible: A Musical Magic Show. His discussion of musical theory will probably be new to just about everyone in the audience, even those of us who learned piano casually as children. While the magic is itself impressive, it is a secondary aspect of the performance, enhancing the discussion and performance of music. This is to Kelso’s benefit, setting him apart and making for an especially interesting show.
The magic starts classically and visibly, with a trick that happens both in Kelso’s hands and in the hands of his audience members. However, a highlight of the show is the perfect combination of the musical and magical aspects in a card finding effect that uses the piano to find the cards. An audience member in the front row of the reviewed show had a satisfying reaction as the magic revealed itself, gasping loudly and clutching her partner’s arm. Seeing that Kelso can provoke this reaction in his audience is a reminder to frequent magic show attendees of how it feels to see these incredible feats for the first time.
Kelso evidentially knows at least as much about the history of pianos and music as he does about magic, and it’s great to get to hear some of this knowledge from him. He covers everything from historical differences in tuning standards—listing a few famous composers and describing how the instruments of their day would be tuned higher or lower than the one he plays on—to the effects of air pollution and recent research in to how to potentially counteract it, for example how living under a flight path might affect people. The magic draws people in, but once they are there they may wish that more of the performance were dedicated to this musical education.
Sounds Impossible: A Musical Magic Show does indeed sound impossible at first, but Kelso pulls off the premise and more. With a broad appeal, he gets people from both sides—impressing the magic fans with his breadth of music knowledge and the music fans with the magic tricks. He has a pretty universal appeal. Fans of either aspect of his performance will be sure to see something new.