Wednesday, February 6, 2013

concert review, ALFIE BOE, Bergen Arts Center, January 31

Who knew that inside opera singer turned musical theatre/recording artist and PBS pledge drive star Alfie Boe was a budding rock star?  Boe is the "crossover" sensation that came to fame due to his performance as Jean Valjean in the 25th Anniversary concert production of Les Miserables that was seen on PBS in the US during many pledge break weeks.

Backed by his five piece band, Boe rocked out at the Bergen Arts Center last Thursday night on classic pop rock hits including ones by The Doobie Brothers, Elvis and the Allman Brothers as well as some traditional folk songs and musical theatre hits.  And while it might have been a little bit of a shock to those in the audience who came to see Boe sing familiar songs from Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera, or even an opera selection or two since that is where he got his start, Boe pretty much made every song work with his powerful, soaring tenor voice.  He did include a couple of musical theatre songs as well but it definitely wasn't the focus of the evening.

Featuring many songs from his recording "Alfie" (which I reviewed here when it was released last Summer) and a few tunes from his latest release "Storyteller" (review coming soon) the concert was an eclectic mix of pop, rock, blues, classical and Broadway.  And while Alfie's powerful voice wasn't always a perfect fit for every song, the joy he brings to each tune was evident throughout.  You can tell these songs are some of his favorite ones as well and when combined with a powerful band they made the whole evening into a rocking event.

Alfie performing in Les Miserables in London
A somewhat meandering "Song of the Siren" got the concert off to a little bit of a rocky start but Boe quickly turned things around with performances of several songs off his "Alfie" cd.  These included a touching and personal performance of "In My Daughter's Eyes," a smooth, slow and sexy "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" as well as three musical theatre songs, a fast and jazzy "Being Alive," a soaring "Bring Him Home" and a rousing "Wheels of A Dream" that ended the first act.  
The second act featured several traditional Italian and Spanish folk songs that included a pairing of "O Sole Mio" and the Elvis classic "It's Now or Never."   It was an interesting combination that on paper would seem very odd but Alfie managed to combine the two songs into something greater than you'd expect.  Another Elvis hit "That's All Right" got the audience moving in their seats.  He also included several pop/rock classics including The Doobie Brother's "Listen to the Music" as well as The Allman Brother's Band "Midnight Rider" where he got about twenty young kids from the audience up on the stage with him to dance along to the music. 

As well presented and performed as these songs were it was three story songs that I believe fared best.  All three of these are emotional and spiritual and have an uplifting theme even though they are fairly depressing songs on the surface.  Two of these songs are very old songs as well.  The first, "Wayfaring Stranger" is an early American folk song telling the story of a man's journey to the promised land and "Rank Strangers to Me" which tells the story of a man returning from fighting in the Civil War and not knowing how to fit back into society.   Both of these songs had stirring arrangements with Alfie's voice soaring to the rafters throughout.  He ended the concert with an extended version of "Angel From Montgomery," a song from the early 1970's by John Prine that many folk and country singers have covered, including Bonnie Raitt.  This song tells the story of a woman who is tired of her life and wants an angel to come and take her away so she can be free.  Alfe's voice pierced through the lyrics of the chorus, "Just give me one thing that I can hold on to, to believe in this living is just a hard way to go" that are repeated throughout and perfectly capture the image of this woman who just wants a better life.

Throughout the concert Alfie had a lovely connection with the audience, including several moments when he came out into the crowd to either jokingly harass latecomers or to find a man who was singing along on "O Sole Mio" to let him have a few seconds in the spotlight.  He obviously enjoys singing these songs and sharing his love for these songs with an audience.  I also especially liked how Alfie didn't seem to want the concert to end and how when he took his final bow he pulled his band mates close to him and took a bow with all of them instead of just a solo one by himself.

The statement Alfie made at the end of the concert pretty much sums up the message he is trying to get out there - "We've tried to show you there is no division between music, from classical to blues to rock to soul to musical theatre to country.  It's just one big happy world."

Alfie's official site

Alfie performs "Angel from Montgomery":

"Wayfaring Stranger"

"Bring Him Home" with the Mormom Tabernacle Choir:

"O Sole Mio" and "It's Now Or Never"

 and the song that put him on the map..."Bring Him Home" from the 25th Anniversary Les Mis concert:

No comments:

Post a Comment