Peter Bence in Melbourne

He blew up the internet with his jaw-dropping renditions of pop favourites. He’s now on tour in Australia and thrilled the audience of a sold out show at the National Theatre in Melbourne.

2018-04-23-PHOTO-00005590Haven’t heard of Peter Bence? It’s time you got acquainted. If for no other reason, simply because there’s nothing quite like him out there. A purist might shy away from the unorthodox nature of his piano techniques that involves some relentless finger acrobatics. Not to mention the ‘abuse’ he unleashes on the instrument – Bence leaves no part of the piano untouched. In the end it all comes together to result in an astonishing auditory experience. Simply put, it’s pure entertainment.

Peter Bence is one of those talents that shot to stardom on Youtube which is where I discovered him too. I first heard his rendition of Michael Jackon’s Black or White, which triggered binge watching of all his uploads wondering with each new video ‘did the piano survive that?’. So when his Australian tour dates were announced I pounced on the opportunity to watch him live at The National Theatre of Melbourne.

I anticipated his piano antics no doubt, but his ability to woo the audience with some quick wit and cheeky asides were a pleasant surprise. At the start of the show he was quick to disclose with some disappointment that not having his own piano meant he had to perform with some restraint. Instead prerecorded loops or sounds were the more tame substitute to stay true to his sound.  However, as the evening wore on he must have given into Peter Bence impulses because the audience was treated to some of his signature string plucks, sound knocks on the piano furniture and even a few elbow jams over the keys.

His repertoire started with a bang with Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River but the background or accompanying audio over-powered the piano. The rest of the performances however didn’t suffer the same fate. The piano rang out loud and clear in MJ’s Human Nature, Sia’s Cheap Thrills, Despacito and well pretty much everything else he magicked his way through including some of his own original compositions.

In between takes he took the time to give introductory anecdotes and appeared very much at ease with the crowd. The lanky Hungarian in all his youthful and animated exuberance appeared almost caricature at the piano. He was even ready with a witty come back to fend off mild heckling courtesy of an audience member suggesting he practice more.  This was over some bum notes (were they though I am unsure), during a particularly demanding performance of a Bach classic that sounded humanly impossible to play. He is after all Usain Bolt of the keyboard as some have dubbed him. More specifically, he holds the Guinness world record for the world’s fastest piano player – a topic that irks him. The evening ended beautifully with an uplifting rendition of Charlie Puth’s Attention (incidentally his classmate at Berkley).

No event worth talking about ever goes without a social media worthy click. His manager made an appearance to request the audience to pose for a group photo with the young virtuoso eased against the grand piano. It all felt quite orchestrated but a well-entertained audience was happy to oblige. After all Peter Bence didn’t disappoint.