LIVE REVIEW: Il Divo, L.G. Arena (Birmingham), 14.04.2012

Classical man-band Il Divo have exceeded all expectations. Formed by Simon Cowell almost nine years ago to cash in on the popularity of the pop-opera wave, led by Andrea Bocelli, the multi-national quartet are clearly counting their blessings. As they take to the stage accompanied by a 35 piece Orchestra to perform for the sold out Birmingham audience, they launch into a standing ovation worthy rendition of “Come What May (Te Amara)”, which is met by rapturous applause by their hungry audience.
While they initially veer away from chit chat, with somewhat awkward explanations interjected between songs, they build steadily to the opening act highlight-a chillblain inducing rendition of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”.
With the audience eating out of the palm of their hands, they draw act one to a close with their first standing ovation of the night.
As they return to the stage for the second act, their general demeanour is far more relaxed and it is clear that they are determined to enjoy the second half as much as their audience. The relaxed presence of the performers prompts raucous screams for a wanting audience, who are thrilled by the new banterful approach.
With the second half acting as a celebration of their finest release to date, 2011’s “Wicked Game”, the evening takes on a very personal feel-with proud new Daddy (for the third time) Sébastien Izambard enchanting the audience with nursery rhymes-and most importantly a birthday cake to celebrate David Miller’s 38th birthday.
With the audience interaction crescendo-ing, the boys evoked the full spectrum of emotions from their attentive audience as they journeyed through “Crying”, “Mama” and “Hallelujah” before concluding proceedings with a clear fan favourite “Somewhere”.
With the audience stomping for an encore, their wish is granted as the quartet  return with a rousing rendition of the Bocelli classic “Time To Say Goodbye (Con Te Partirò)” that induces the first sing along of the evening as the loyal fanbase bid farewell to the musical maestros.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Anna Brown

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The Kaje talks stadium success to Il Divo

Il Divo were the creation of Reality Talent Show Guru Simon Cowell. Having noted the popularity of Andrea Bocelli and the second place ranking of G4 on the X Factor, he decided to mastermind a Three Tenors of the noughties. Little did he realise back in 2004 just how powerful the quartet of French pop singer Sébastien Izambard, Spanish baritone Carlos Marín, American tenor David Miller, and Swiss tenor Urs Bühler would become as a combined unit. Having unleashed their sixth studio album “Wicked Game” last year, the quartet are about to embark on the UK section of the immense global tour. With the rain pouring fast and hard in Belfast, The Kaje checked in with Carlos Marín to see how it was all going…

Are you enjoying the tour so far?

Very much. It has been amazing since we started in January in South Africa. It has been a real journey from South Africa to Japan to Australia to China and South East Asia. It has been absolutely amazing. The reaction from the audience has been fantastic everywhere. This show that we are bringing is a 37 piece Orchestra on stage, which makes it feel a little bit more intimate even if we are playing big venues. We are always trying to be closer to the audience.

How do you create a sense of intimacy even when playing larger venues?

The good thing is that we have cameras in front of us capturing every moment which can be projected on to big screens and fill a big venue. We want to try be as close as possible as it shows our passion in our songs. The people’s reaction is amazing every night. We always get a standing ovation, which is really touching because you see each time younger people coming to fill the audience. We have a meet and greet every night before the show to have photos with us. In big venues with 7000 to 12000 people. In Madrid it will be 16000 people. It is just one of the most amazing tours.

Do you prefer smaller venues? Or do you get a kick out of arena shows?

Sometimes it is much more difficult to play for a smaller audience. Of course we are still talking 2000 people when we say a small venue. I don’t know why it just feels like you are ever closer to them. It is a different experience. I don’t know how to explain it. In a big venue it is a much bigger sound, but it is a totally different experience. Which do I prefer? Obviously I prefer both. Once you have the audience there clapping and giving their support, then we are happy about it.

Is there one venue in the world that you really feel a connection with?

I don’t know really. Obviously the Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic venue to perform, but it was also amazing at the o2. Every single country has something special. Every single night something special happens on stage. The people react differently. Every night there is something new. For example it was really funny in Korea, we were singing “La Vida Sin Amor” and I was talking to the audience asking if anybody wanted to dance with me. Suddenly a girl jumped on stage and started to dance with me. At the beginning it was funny, then she was getting closer and closer. The security eventually helped her go off the stage.

The audience means a lot to you. Do you feel that the intimacy of an Il Divo concert relies on the two-way relationship between audience and performer?

It is a really amazing relationship we have with the audience. You see people crying suddenly, so you really get touched every night. Every night there is a new story. We had a letter from one woman who came to a meet and greet, she told us that she was in a coma for a long time and woke up to our music-that is just so touching.  It is just amazing. It is amazing what we can do with our music. We find it unbelievable.

Before Il Divo you were already very succesful. You have recently returned to projects outside of Il Divo, how do you strike a balance between personal ambitions and group ambitions?

Right now we do not have much time to think about our solo careers. Obviously I have done things solo. I am a workaholic, so if we have one month off, I will rest for a week then I will see what I can do in the other weeks. For example last June we had a month off and I prepared my own show. It was a jazzy Frank Sinatra kind of show. It was an amazing experience with 25 other musicians on the stage. Those are things that I love to do, but being on tour our mind and full being is in Il Divo. We all think Il Divo has a long life ahead of us.

Having taken three years to record and make our latest album “Wicked Game”, which I think is our best record, was really good for us. We feel really strong and are having such a great time on this tour. We have always had a really great time, but right now we are having a really great time too.

“Wicked Game” contains perhaps your most diverse material to date, how do you select songs for a record?

It was quite difficult. This album we wanted to not make an obvious Il Divo album. We were trying to choose songs that would not have a typical formula. Take “Wicked Game” for example, Chris Isaak didn’t want us to cover this song because no one had done it before. He just didn’t want us to cover it. But we got lucky. His Mum is a very big fan of Il Divo and is Italian, she suggested that if we sang it in Italian then he should say yes. So we recorded it, sent it over and we had the blessing of both him and his Mum. That is why we called the album “Wicked Game”.

The other songs just took a lot of research. We wanted to give something different to our audience. “Crying” for example was another song that we thought about but did not know how to approach. We listened to Rebekah Del Rio, the American singer, and her haunting voice just touched us. So we approached her and asked her to sing the song as a duet.

What we would do typically is put a list forward and the record company put a list forward,then we go to the studio and record about 40 songs. We then just choose which should be in English, which in Spanish and which in Italian. So it is quite a long process.

There was quite a long break between “The Promise” and “Wicked Game”-are you already planning a follow-up?

We are going to release a new record this year, then we hope to release a new record every year. Obviously I cannot tell you what the new record is going to be as it is a surprise. With each record we will head out on the road. We are live singers, that is what we love.  Recording is an amazing experience but you don’t get the closeness to your audience. That response, that applause is what we all love.

WIN!!!!! If you would like to get your hands on a signed copy of “Wicked Game”, simply tell us who performed “Wicked Game” originally… Answers to jeremy@the-kaje.com by Friday 21st April.

Words: Jeremy Williams

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