A Vivoscene Concert Review by Brian Miller
The pop-opera group Il Divo performed at Rogers Arena in Vancouver last night in a lavishly lit setting with a full orchestra, and left the predominantly female crowd panting for more. Their formula, now nine years on and perfected in extensive touring, is not only intact but appears unstoppable. Four great voices emanating from four handsome gentlemen in elegant clothes, oozing charm and sex appeal: that was the original concept dreamed up by Simon Cowell when he hand-picked them for the initial recording session. As things turned out, they got along incredibly well and they still do. It shows on stage.
The classical crossover phenomenon has done wonders for record sales and concert halls from London to Russia to China, and Il Divo stands at the head of the class. The amazing thing is that the group is still together after nine years, with not one personnel change. That’s a rarity in the music business, especially considering their gruelling touring schedule. The current tour features songs from their latest album Wicked Game (yes, the Chris Isaak number – though their interpretation is considering more rousing than that of Isaak). After all, the members of Il Divo introduced themselves to the audience as “four caged tigers with a lot of energy to release”. They did just that, performing more than twenty songs (scroll down below to see the setlist) with a mere ten minute interlude.
Best of the evening: a beautifully tender “Dove L’Amore” based on Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, demonstrating conclusively that not of all their numbers are over the top. Their melding of voices was superb, almost overwhelming in its combination of restraint and intensity. This was a truly beautiful piece, exquisitely sung. Also a highlight was their version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, one of their most effective pieces for the way it maximized the variety in their individual voices. Their Italian version of The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” was particularly glorious, pulling out all the stops and bringing the audience to its feet in unalloyed appreciation. And as for their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, this may well be a song you think you’ve heard too often, but Il Divo triumphed with this as well, bringing to it both tenderness and restraint.
Somewhat less successful was their Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”. Personally I love the fact that they’re attempting this material, but this is a song that requires more subtlety than they offered, but then it may be simply that the original is impossible to match. Many great singers have stumbled over this one and given up on recording Orbison; he was a master at pop opera, perhaps because he sang most of his biggest numbers in a quiet voice, with many shadings, but always leaving his emotional dynamics to the very last. That said, Il Divo quickly bounced back, though, with a very moving performance (in Spanish) of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”, bringing just the right amount of grief, longing and regret to this song.
Special mention must also be made of the opening act, Nikki Yanofsky, one of Canada’s best and most sparkling young jazz singers. With a cohesive swinging band and a highly appealing stage presence, Nikki made the most of her time on stage, particularly in a spectacular powerhouse performance of “I’d Rather Go Blind”, proving that this young star can sing anything in any genre she cares to tackle. Her version of “Drink Muddy Water” closed out her set in a hard-driving blues rocking number that was quite a delicious surprise. And yes, she sings some marvellous jazz too. Hard to believe she is a mere 18 years old.
Il Divo setlist:
Come What May
Medley of La Vida Sin Amor/ Ti Amero/Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman/Angelina
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
Every Time I Look At You
Melanconia (Wicked Game)
Si Tu Mi Amas
Ven A Mi
Regresa A Mi (Unbreak My Heart)
Por Que Tu Me Amas