Il Divo charm faithful Boston crowd

A review of Il Divo at Agganis Arena on May 14, 2009

, Contributing Writer

Entering the Agganis Arena on Thursday night I didn’t know what to expect from the men of Il Divo. Of course, I knew that with the aid of Simon Cowell, this group of three operatically trained singers and one European pop-star, has achieved loads of global fame. But how would the group famous for their “popera,” the fusion of pop music with operatic style, fair in a live setting? The answer, just fine.

Il Divo, are opera singers, plain and simple, and are very good at what they do, delivering a show that had the audience ranging from laughing to crying, all the while finding themselves completely entranced by the music. They may not have the moves of a typical boy-band, but they certainly have the allure.

Taking the stage after a dramatic introduction from the Il Divo orchestra and back-up band, the men of Il Divo began the night with a very serious rendition of “Somewhere” during which they slowly made their way down the center staircase to the elated screams of the women in the audience. Il Divo are American tenor David Miller, Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, French pop singer Sebastien Izambard, and Spanish baritone Carlos Marin. Each of them was dressed in a well chosen Armani black suit which we had plenty of time to examine as they began what would be their trademark slow-motion walking around the stage. After singing “Regresa A Mi," the Spanish version of Toni Braxton’s "Unbreak My Heart," they took a few minutes to thank the crowd before performing a song off of the new album The Promise, aptly titled “La Promessa.” Taking advantage of the walkways coming off the stage into the audience the men of Il Divo slowly made their way around as they swapped vocals on “Angelina” also off of The Promise much to the delight of the women in the front rows.

Closing out the opening set of the show was a goose-bump inducing version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that resulted in the first standing ovation of the night. The intermisison that followed seemed odd at first, but it did give me some time to reflect on what I had seen thus far. While the guys are very good about sharing the vocal and don’t miss a mark during their choreographed walking, it is obvious that they each bring a separate set of talents to the stage. The tenors, Miller and Buhler, seem to be the most comfortable with the operatic style they are performing. Baritone Carlos Marin is no less talented but he is clearly the “game show host” or actual Divo of the group, his facial expressions and mannerisms can distract from his overall performance. Finally there is Izambard, the pop star, who gets called out as such during the show and in all of the write-ups I had accessed about the group. Although I have to admit that if it hadn’t been mentioned so frequently it would have been hard to tell who came from the pop world as Izambard has flawlessly integrated himself into this genre. The guys work together to produce an amazing vocal that seamlessly brings their unique sounds together on almost every song while also giving focus to their individual abilities throughout.

Returning to the stage in black and white ensembles, Il Divo delivered a stunning rendition of “She” that was surprisingly better than the Elvis Costello version. It’s obvious that this group finds true strength in taking popular songs and making them their own. And half the fun of their live performance is trying to figure out the song as they fluctuate between languages and work their way to the big operatic finish in each. Another high note of the performance was “Unchained Melody” which was unfortunately followed by “Mama” which was cheesily dedicated to all the mothers in the audience by Marin, the sentiment was nice; the delivery was awkward to say the least.&

After taking another short intermission the evening with Il Divo continued as the guys took the stage in suits in shades of gray to perform a slightly slower version of “Without You,” the song made famous by Harry Nilsson. While the vocal on this song was rich and nicely complimented the orchestra, there were moments when Marin could have toned down his vocal to highlight the others. The men of Il Divo allowed some of their personality to shine through on “Everytime I Look At You” which was a nice moment after nearly two hours of consistently serious delivery with a little bit of cheesiness from Marin on the side. The guys continued to shine with moving deliveries of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and “Caruso.” In a slightly uncomfortable moment Marin introduced “La Vida Sin Amor” by telling the women in the audience he’d like to “see who can dance the most sexy.” The salsa inspired song actually got some women out of their seats but the statement seemed a bit out of place with the professionalism the guys had displayed to that point. Closing out the final set was an excellent rendition of “My Way” that had the audience jumping to their feet throughout.

Appearing in tuxedos with tails, Il Divo closed the night with back to back powerhouse deliveries of “Amazing Grace” and “The Impossible Dream” as members of the audience swarmed around the stage for autographs, handshakes, and to give gifts. The big finish was nothing short of expected after the build-up of each individual song and it certainly didn’t leave people disappointed.

While Il Divo was not the man-band I was anticipating I am glad to say that they didn’t fulfill my preconceived expectations, they were much, much better than that.

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