While most people have spent December preparing for Christmas, tenor Alfie Boe has been travelling around the country on his Bring Him Home tour. After kicking off on 6th December 2011 in Bristol, he visited the cities of Brighton, Birmingham, Blackpool, Cardiff, Liverpool and London, concluding the final leg of this year’s tour in Nottingham this past Sunday – which I attended. My mum lives up North and is a huge Alfie Boe fan – she came to see him in Les Miserables but he was unfortunately off ill on that occasion, so when the tour was announced, she quickly snapped up a few tickets to see him perform live. I was only too happy to take her up on her offer of one.
The Nottingham Royal Concert Hall is not the biggest venue in the world, so when you have an entire orchestra on the stage, it has the tendency to look a little cramped. Most of the area was given over to the orchestra (who were simply fantastic by the way), but a few space issues pale in comparison to the effect of their combined efforts. With a voice as big as Boe’s, you need live music accompaniment that can keep up with it, which they more than did.
Anyone who came along expecting to spend a few opera-fuelled hours in his company would have been sorely disappointed, although originally making his name through the operatic world, his recent surge of popularity is due to his contributions to the world of musical theatre, reflected in the material of his last two albums. The Bring Him Home tour heavily featured songs from his album of the same title, with a few extra additions along the way. He performed tracks such as ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, ‘Hushabye Mountain’, ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ and, of course, ‘Bring Him Home’ – the evening wouldn’t have been complete without his own uniquely inspired rendition of the classic Les Mis song, which I could see many audience members just waiting to hear. There were also a couple of songs from his latest album, ‘Alfie’, like ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, ‘Song To The Siren’ and the beautifully moving ‘In My Daughter’s Eyes’, which was backed by video footage of Alfie Boe – not the singer, but in the role of daddy – with his daughter. With such touching lyrics and heartfelt performance, it was easily my pick of the night.
The concert wasn’t just a theatre-fest. Boe had a wonderfully varied set-list of songs which included selections from artists like The Beatles, Chris de Burgh (audience members who were there will no doubt have a little chuckle to themselves at the connotations that Mr de Burgh holds with their memories of the night) and even mash-ups between unlikely partners – how many would think of Tom Jones as a follow-up to Bond themes?
As much as I enjoy listening to Alfie Boe sing, the inclusion of guest artists certainly added to the over-all experience. The simply stunning vocals of soprano Laura Wright were very much appreciated by the audience; her ‘Danny Boy’ was probably the best I’ve ever heard and I, along with everyone else, were entranced by her more-classical offerings. The duet with Boe on ‘Come What May’ (which he performs on the Bring Him Home album with Kerry Ellis) was awe-inspiring too – a true goose-bump moment.
On the other end of the spectrum was Boe’s second guest, Matt Lucas; rather less vocally-blessed, but talented in a whole other way. As well as a couple of the customary Christmas-themed songs (don’t bother with the Jew and Christmas jokes, Lucas already cracked off more than enough), the two friends also performed their duet from the album, ‘The Impossible Dream’ – Lucas hasn’t gotten any better at remembering the lyrics either, to somewhat comical results. He may not be on a par with Ms Wright when it comes to singing, but there’s no-one funnier than Matt Lucas, with his constant stream of one-liners. Still, if he is a funny man on his own, the combination of Lucas and Boe was off the comedy chart. The bond between the two is clear to see, as they consistently fired off good-natured insults to one another. One of the most laugh-out-loud moments of the night came from them at the start of the second act, when Boe pilfered a number of items which front-row audience members had left on the stage, one being a tin of Roses chocolates. Matt Lucas came running out to get one and ended up chasing Boe around the concert hall – you don’t want to know how many attempts it took him to get through the next song after all that running… And if you ever thought to yourself that a soprano’s aria needed two men slow-motion running their way across the stage during its performance, then they delivered.
Some people maybe of the opinion that an opera singer has to be stuffy and uptight, but Boe is a great person to dispel that view. Warm, engaging and with a wicked sense of humour all of his own, he turned what could have been a very strait-laced concert performance into a highly entertaining evening that I’m sure the audience will be remembering for a long time. He certainly knows how to close a show too, with a big-band Elvis finish that also saw him take to the drum kit (which he’s pretty good on). There are more tour dates coming in the New Year, so for those who didn’t make it to one of the 2011 dates, get yourself along to one in 2012 – I thoroughly enjoyed myself and if you do go, it’s a surety that you will too.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
20th December 2011