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Review: Peter Buffett gives musically strong, but strange, show at Ohio State

It all started with an animated film featuring “Mr B.” and “cello dog.”

Well, no. It started with an announcement to turn off electronic devices, such as telephones; which is – kind of – like on a plane.

But it really all started with an animated film.

“Cello dog,” in the film, explained that, to experience great pleasure and fulfillment, you have to follow what your heart says and dismiss all the “noise” that, around you, tries to influence you.

Newspapers, television or advertising are “noise.” You are reading noise right now.

As Peter Buffett and Michael Kott, the cellist, enter the stage of a nearly full Weigel Auditorium at the School of Music, and as they sit down, we wonder: Is this man, wearing jeans, a checkered shirt and a casual jacket, really the youngest son of Warren Buffett, the multi-billion dollar investor?

He really is, he tells us, adding he knows what we think about him telling us to do what we love.

He raises his book, “Life Is What You Make It.” The book lies on his piano for the whole show.

“People see the name of this book,” he said, “and they hear my last name, and they think: ‘Easy for you to say.’”

Weigel Auditorium laughs.

The show series is called “Concert and Conversation,” he explains, “because we concert (showing Kott), and we converse (showing the auditorium).”

The evening is an exposé of Buffett’s life, focusing on his early childhood and teenage years (conversation?), featuring film clips (concert?), music (concert!) and some questions (conversation?) from the audience.

Joanna Boutilier, a third-year in welding engineering, said “it was great, it was a really interesting format, nothing like I have ever seen before.”

One of Peter Buffett’s first works as a musician was composing music for MTV ads.

“It was the ‘80s, that’s my excuse,” he joked, before showing advertisements for “Buf Puf, skin cleanser,” and an ad for milk. “Milk — it does the body good.”

Yes, the son of one of the richest Americans really wrote music for TV clips advertising the consumption of milk after physical exercise.

“It was satisfying a client,” Buffet said, apologizing.

Weigel laughed, again.

The show was a multimedia performance, making it a concert-question-answer-presentation-film-philosophy evening. One song, for instance, introduced by girls from India and Bangladesh singing, “We Shall Overcome” on screen, features a video of young boys and girls in miserable conditions and sometimes war zones.

Peter Buffett is co-president of the NoVo Foundation, a nonprofit which mainly aims at empowering women and young girls as well as promoting partnership and collaboration to advance social and emotional learning. The foundation also promotes local and economies.

Taylor Price, a third-year in environmental engineering, said she was “really impressed with the performance and how he incorporated his philanthropic message into his music and used both to relay the other; I thought it was very impressive.”

Monica Okon, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering, said it was “an overall great experience,” for her, and that she agreed with the main lines of his “life is what you make it” message. “It really was impactful to me,” she added. “Everything he said tonight, and the music that he composed, really spoke to me.”

Peter Buffett asked for questions and gave good-sounding answers on pretty much every subject. His discourse could sometimes seem redundant and rehearsed, though redeemed by a very personal touch. His music touches on feelings, with long lyrical movements; a smooth flow from major to minor, and back; a stream of notes and chords, punctuated with cascading cello and sometimes piano melodies.

Michael Kott, on the cello, was simply wonderful.

Peter Buffett’s music is not a jazzy piano-cello composition with chilling seventh chords and pentatonic scales; it is more pop, upbeat and way more melodically and harmonic. His voice adds poetic, sometimes thought-provoking lyrics to some songs.

“If I live to see daylight / What part of life / Will I decide to change?”

His speech fascinated, captured attention and seemed profound — though it’s always necessary to reflect.

“Life is what you make of it,” and the message that we all live in a corrupted system are pretty old messages nobody normally cares about anymore. Should we really care about them when a billionaire’s son advertises them on stage, between good-sounding, meditational music and video?

Peter Buffett doesn’t aggressively advertise his message. He conveys his thoughts by speaking openly and by making the venue feel as if it were his living room where he tells meaningful stories to an intimate audience.

For the end of the show, Buffett asks the audience to join in and sing-along at the end of the last song. The audience joined slowly and cautiously.

“Can you see it? Love in the time that we live / Can we love / In the time that we live in?”

It was awkward though when no one wanted to sing louder than his neighbor — as the last song ended with a reserved OSU choir, a third of the audience left quickly, missing the encore.

“My eyes are open / I feel the air / The chain is broken / And buried here / But I won’t feel foolish / For what I didn’t know / Things weren’t really hidden / They just were never shown / And love is all around me / I see it every day / With every new perception / An old one fades away.”

This was the real end.

A prior version of this article misspelled Peter Buffett’s last name wrong once.

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