While this review is dated, it was the first live performance of Il Volo I attended. The reaction is more of a character study than a musical review. These are my own first impressions of Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca.
Review of Il Volo Performance
Date: 8 September 2012
Venue – The performance was at the Bank of America Pavilion on the waterfront Boston Harbor. The venue is complicated offering a view to a wide variety of boats and vessels sailing by. This could be fun; however, Logan International Airport is directly across the bay. And yes, outbound planes generally depart on the ½ hour at times roaring directly over the roof. The pavilion is a large tent structurally reinforced with moveable side curtains. There are seats outside of the tent and this arrangement gave the attendee an indoor/outdoor experience depending upon ticket selection. There is a good selection of foods and beverages including beer and wine with outdoor dining areas to enjoy the evening sea breeze. The attendee has a choice of driving into Boston or taking public transportation (MBTA). I choose to park at the T station at Riverside in Newton which is about 10 miles from the destinations end and took the Green line inbound. This proved to be a tricky journey as I had to transfer to the red line, continue to South Station, and eventually board a bus to arrive at the harbor.
I have to say that people watching can account for half the evening entertainment. I like to eavesdrop and tune in to the ambience. My seat was in the center section facing the stage in Row Y with an excellent view. This was my first time at the pavilion and we speculated that the side curtains would be lowered when the show started to create a more intimate atmosphere. Unfortunately, that did not happen and folks sitting along the edges were caught up in a wicked rain and wind storm that blew in half way through the show. I knew the storm was predicted and altered my travel plans. I live near Sturbridge which can be a two hour drive away and left at 2 p.m. amidst tornado watches, thunderstorm warnings and a dark stormy sky. I realized the risk but was prepared to make the best of it. The storm had power and I felt some of the rain drops in the middle of the room. Rain water came pouring down the left side walkway between the seating rows leading to the stage. Pity the sorry souls on the perimeter. The ticket clearly says Rain or Shine. This commotion was distracting to say the least. There must be a reason pavilion staff opted not to drop the side curtains. At one point in the show, Il Volo (IV) stopped and we were all looking around as to what to do. The artists and patrons need to be comfortable and we were not. Gianluca deftly started crooning, I’m Singin’ in the Rain. However, despite the drama the performance was terrific.
The return trip home proved to be a bit of a nightmare. While the storm rocked us around at the harbor, it also tore down several trees onto the subway tracks. When the train went above ground, it ended up stopping part way to my destination. All the passengers were rerouted onto buses. It was a crazy, crazy ride home mixed up with Red Sox Fans from the game that was completed that night. Most of us were out-of-towners and at the mercy of our companions on the train for how to maneuver onto the right bus to end up where we wanted to be. It did take more than a few hours to get home.
If the management team needs a different venue for the next tour through Massachusetts, consider the Hanover Theater or Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA.
I had only heard of IV in June when WGBH TV aired the PBS Detroit Opera House performance. I tuned into the program about midway through and had no idea who the artists were. A quick glance told me it might be three Italian tenors but something was different. I kept listening and it so happened that IV was in the Boston PBS Station Studio during the fund raiser call in portion of the show. Their English skill was basic and Piero took the lead in talking to Lo Hartnett, the host on the set. Lo obviously enjoyed their company and smoothed the communications helping the guys relax and speak with confidence. It was toward the end of the fundraising portion when I realized Piero was a ham. When he sorted out that the camera was on, he cheerfully puffed up and waved vigorously at the audience saying, Di Camera, Di Camera! One look and I was enchanted.
After some deliberation, I bought a ticket and planned out the trip. As I am a bit claustrophobic and somewhat averse to crowds, it was a complete leap of faith to go. While we were waiting for the show to start, somebody parted the curtain at the back of the stage but all I could see was a black outline of the doorway. Somebody was looking out so I waved. The guys were warmly welcomed by a mature audience and started the show with Un’Amore Cosi Grande. Everyone I met in the audience had seen the PBS program and, collectively, the spirit was we had to see this to believe it. Piero, Gianluca and Ignazio were as strong in voice in person as on the telly. The blend of energies, voices and charisma was sparkling. Unfortunately, the band too often overpowered the voices and if I may say, as good as they were, ought not to compete with the artists. I thought a band is supposed to enhance not interfere. There were times the show felt brisk as if they had to keep on a tight schedule. The guys clearly loved the spotlight and responded with their personal best. The general impression was they do not compete with each other. And, there was no leader. Individually the confidence was matter of fact. Still, the sexy male energy was not missed at least by me. How tight can your pants get! Italians superficially are generally revered for fashion, food and art. IV already have style and presence. These are young Italian men traveling about, it takes a bit of moxie to do this.
The horsing around on stage was at times confusing. Piero reminded me from the start of Toppo Gigio, a puppet character from the Ed Sullivan Show. When IV introduced themselves to the crowd, Gian and Ignazio called to Piero who had disappeared under the staging. When they called him to come out, he said, Ohh noooo Izza scared! In the same voice I remembered from the puppet. During the show he was constantly moving around humming, smiling, talking, looking and generally having a cheery good time all by himself. He often would float back to the band members and air play alongside. He loves the music. Piero and Ignazio interacted often with Gianluca resting and a few times sitting down watching them bop each other around. At one point when Piero was messing around with Ignazio’s wardrobe, he called out to GG to join him just like a kid in the schoolyard would. Come on! GG shook his head and rested on the sideline. It was in these moments I remembered they are still teenagers and this is what guys do at home. Bop each other around. There is something down to earth about them that makes you say, come over for dinner and conversation, share your thoughts and impressions.
Musically, every review is similar, brilliant, time of my life, have to see this again. How on earth do they sustain that level of performance show after show! Gianluca was impressive. He is slight in stature, photogenic and rarely smiled. He opened the show and it was very exciting to see Piero and Ignazio in shadow waiting for their turn to sing. It struck me at that moment how young he was and how gutsy it is to stand out there in front of a large crowd and sing the first note. He is quite an unusual young man. When he started singing Maria, I was delighted and became wrapped up in the story. Towards the end of the song, he fell on one knee and started to pray. He seemed the most able to reach into the true emotions of the words and convey them through the body. He felt what he was singing.
Ignazio came across as Mr. Congeniality. He felt like a person in transition. Someone described him to me as a young man in a grown man’s body. He fussed with his ear piece often pulling at his hair. Piero struck me as a whole different kind of cat. He was lean, sleek and a frisky faun with a lot of charisma. The star quality of “look at me” is strong. His rendition of Smile is what captivated me in the first place. What a voice!! Unfortunately, he sang his second solo in the middle of the rain torrent and I got distracted by wondering if the roof will stay on as he sang the old theme song from Love Story. I have to hear this again. At the end of the show, Piero’s expression changed and he looked out with an unusually warm gaze as we cheered their performance. He made several gestures speaking in Sicilian sign language? He put his hands together in a heart shape and raised them to his heart, extending it out to us. I think he was saying, the heart is open, here is a channel for the love: I give and receive. He used his right hand to pat himself on the left shoulder again and again gazing out with a bashful, warm smile and glittering expressive eyes as if to say thank you, it’s too much, too much, gratitude to the audience. I never saw anything like it before. In other words, I had the time of my life. On the bus ride out Boston, many of us had come directly from the show and we were gushing with joy. We all saw something different. We agreed that the first song or two, they were tense or nervous, but must have picked up our delight and sailed forward on that collective feeling.
The indirect influence of Il Volo is that my Conversational Italian class starts Wednesday of this week and I started the savings account for a trip to Italy. It’s been an all Italian summer for me with cooking, reading and more. Not to pile on the pressure, but they are ambassadors for Italy.
Bravi! Grazie mille! Viva Il Volo.