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Fleet Center
June 16, 2002

by Nan

Pre-concert, we gathered in the lounge of the Bostonian, mostly a party of familiar faces from around New England, as well as my favorite Grand Dame from Colorado (you know who you are). Cockeyed optimists, my party of four left our umbrellas in the car, and thus were forced to use my raincoat as community tarp, taking itty-bitty synchronous steps through the puddles as we lined up outside the concert hall, shaking ourselves off like four drowned rats as we entered the building. Handing over our tickets at the turnstile, we were instructed to report to Customer Service, immediately. My first instinct was to swallow my gum before Fleet Management made me stick it to the end of my nose. But no, we were not singled out on account of offense, nor were we courted to fill holes in the orchestra. We were being ‘forced’ to upgrade, abandoning our cheapo seats at the other end of the world for a plum location off to the right side of the stage. No reasons were given, and none pressed, not when it became clear that this was scandalously to our advantage. There was some monstrous piece of equipment set up in the back of the hall at floor level, which undoubtedly would have obstructed our view. Thank goodness for unnecessary paraphernalia.

"Vesti la guibba" was perfectly placed as opener, a gut-wrenching and powerful piece, on Bocelli’s part, a two-footed, two-fisted leap into the program. The crowd was immediately aroused, and though it was a viable rendition…I’d have no trouble buying it in the context of the opera…I was a bit disappointed by the amount of sob and scarcity of what sets Bocelli’s voice apart from others, that which drags you into his emotion. This felt "at you" rather than "in me," a criticism that clearly shows I am both selfish and spoiled, both of which are Bocelli’s fault. From here on in, I was enthralled with every piece. "E lucevan le stelle" was more beautiful than ever, if that’s possible. There is definitely something more to this man’s voice, a new confidence, and a richer tone, decisiveness that was heard throughout the evening. I was not quite as stunned by his improvement as I was last tour, but what has emerged in that time frame is strength, possible physical, definitely mental, strength that seems to radiate from him rather than from the presence of his stage mates. If one had never seen Bocelli in concert before this night (as I am certain many had not), one might have thought he has always been the picture of comfort in front of an audience.

My favorites in the first half were "Turridu’s Farewell" (probably my new favorite aria) and Giordano’s "Mia madre," which was foreign to me, but if that is, indeed, what he sang, I am looking forward to playing this aria to death. I wonder whose bright idea it was to forego translations on the program. I was counting on taking the lazy man’s way out on a few pieces that I hadn’t had time to research. He did stick to his program more closely than usual. If he makes this habit, it would be nice if he or his management would leak out what he is apt to perform on a given tour, or at least what is new in his repertoire.

During the second session, I fell in love with "Occhi di fata." I was hoping he wouldn’t sing "Marchiare," "O sole mio" and "Torna a Surriento," and cringed over the thought of his closing with "CTP" again…that is, until he sang them. I keep forgetting, live is live. "Brindisi" is always fun, but more so when Maestro Steven "gregarious" Mercurio is there to solicit audience participation.

"Melodramma," is a touchingly beautiful, beautiful song, and was delivered perfectly in that spirit. Everyone was aflutter over Bocelli playing the flute, but I was mentally shushing my neighbors, preparing for my private serenade. The most singular surprise of the night for me was "My Way." I was absolutely floored by the intimacy of Bocelli’s interpretation. He, like Sinatra, reveled wonderfully in the triumphal vein, but Bocelli made me the sufferer. He left me dwelling on what’s beneath the defiance far longer, far deeper, than Sinatra ever did. I’ve never really considered this quite so serious a life anthem, but as he sang it, I had to avert my eyes and struggle for grit to keep from weeping. I confess to expecting a cute carbon copy of the more famous version, but a carbon copy, this was not. "Because," the other piece he performed in English, was also an amazing number, a thoroughly rousing delight with a stellar ending. What a remarkable version of a song I’m not certain I’ve ever cared for in the past. A song, a singer makes. At least, a song, this singer makes, and Bocelli makes every song his sings, his own. I did detect his foreign accent in "Because," (thus, the "cute"), but it took nothing away from my enjoyment. I see no reason why Bocelli shouldn’t consider an all-in-English CD soon.

Ana Maria Martinez was ravishing, far better than her previous Boston performances, now a complete package, full of charm, personality, more physically alluring than I’ve ever seen her, as much a compliment to Bocelli as one could ever hope to see or hear. I detected no labor whatsoever in her performance, her voice strong, sparkling and sharply defined, a woman who also exudes confidence, and uses it to convince the audience that for her, singing is effortless. Her Pagliacci aria was my favorite, a simply gorgeous piece. Her trills gave me chills. When someone puts on a performance like this, you have to feel bad for her being treated as second fiddle, but…(shrug)…this was a Bocelli crowd. The Butterfly duet was one of the most impressive duets I have ever heard Bocelli sing, and the finest I’ve heard of this twosome, to date. It was quite a long piece for a concert crowd, but not a peep was heard from the audience. If I hadn’t already been aware of the mutual affection between Bocelli and Ms. Martinez, I would have assumed it to exist after this aria. I wonder if those who plan to attend the opera this summer will be treated to such vocal finery and striking compatibility. The next diva paired with Bocelli has something to prove, stepping into AMM’s shoes. Let us hope someone is finally thinking of full opera collaboration, Bocelli-Martinez, live on stage or in studio.

I loved all the orchestral pieces under Mercurio’s lively direction. I think everyone recognized and enjoyed them, though many or most may not have been familiar with the "Mercurial Overture." I didn’t sense anyone frowning on Mercurio’s playfulness as I have on other occasions. This crowd was not exceptionally young, but was decidedly not stuffy. The dress was far more casual than I’ve ever seen before at a Bocelli concert (maybe because of the lousy weather) and there were far more men than usual (Father’s Day gifts, no doubt), but it was a fun-loving crowd, not a rude one, egged on by Mercurio. My sister and I spotted the cameraman perched at Bocelli’s foot doing a sort of Ray Charles swaying boogie at one latter point in the show. We had to stifle laughs, watching him slap his hand on a piece of equipment, as if he were at a hootenanny. Too funny.

Bocelli does seem, look, and sound more mature, yet in spite of his deeper, richer tone, nothing is lost in lyrical sweetness, or in the sweetness of his nature. He still smiled regularly, though not with the same type of nervous release one used to sense after a just-performed piece is enthusiastically accepted, more a mature reaction, deeply appreciative, a man pleased with the way things were going. On this night, there was no struggling on his behalf, not as many of us have professed to do several times a night at previous concerts. On this night, there was a strong sense of self-satisfaction in the air; something that those who have followed his career for a time know does not come lightly, and never completely to Bocelli, but the lifting of overt anxiety made for a new and blissful experience. It is hard to imagine fortune improving upon this live performance.

CONCERT REPORT (and other thoughts) – Boston, June 16, 2002

I have to confess to being a "new" fan – I had a cassette of Sogno for quite some time, but never actually sat down to listen to it; it just played in the background occasionally while I was doing other things. Then this past winter, I was in a store looking for a new CD…trying to find something different that would give variety to my listening habits. CIELI DI TOSCANA had just come out and was all over the new release area of the store; I knew Andrea Bocelli had become a big name and I’m an uneducated fan of classical music, so I bought it. I listened to it, listened to it again, and listened to it AGAIN. I found my self listening to nothing else, so I bought ROMANZA…and listened to it again, again and AGAIN. (I’ve since bought SOGNO in CD, and it’s become my favorite)

My curiousity was now aroused and I started going online to find out who this guy was and learn the "story of his success." I saw that he had written a book, so I went to Amazon.com and ordered it. I happened to be home from the work the day it arrived and sat down and started to read…every interruption for the next few days turned out to be no more than spaces of time before I could get back to the book; I was enthralled. As I finished the book, I had such profound feelings – feelings I couldn’t find the right adjectives for – I’ve had other people read the book to get their feedback, thinking that SOMEONE would be able to articulate what I felt. So far, everyone seems to pick up on certain things – courage, determination, intelligence – but there’s something deeper going on for me in connecton with AB that no one I know has honed in on; I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just personality differences and our individual emotional and spiritual makeups.

I have a co-worker (male) who has been a bit condescending in his attitude toward my enthusiastic interest in AB; his mother (in her 70s) is apparently a huge fan, so my co-worker has written AB off as "a hunk who’s major fan base is middle-aged women." However, he also studies philosophy, so I had him read a couple of excerpts from AB’s book, and he found the concepts expressed very interesting; I think he was also quite surprised.

Obviously, by this time I HAD to see AB in person, so I went on the Internet to find an upcoming concert schedule. As luck would have it, he was coming to the U.S. this year and better still, to Boston! I immediately printed out the ticket pricelist and left it by my computer at home, trying to figure out how to pay for a ticket (single parent, two jobs – money’s tight). However, my son (recent high school graduate and working full time for the summer) saw the printout and told me that for Mother’s Day he wanted to buy me a ticket "to go see that blind guy." I was thrilled and decided that with his contribution and what I could come up with, I could get a seat in the middle-price range and wouldn’t be stuck sitting up in the rafters.

On the day of the concert, I found myself getting as excited as if I had a date with THE ONE – that particular individual you’ve been waiting for. I live in a suburb close to Boston, so it was only a matter of a 10-minute drive to the train station for me to get on a train into town. (As I left my house, it started to POUR, so needless to say, all of the women at the concert who had spent some extra time with their hair in anticipation of a night out – NEEDN’T HAVE BOTHERED! We were all having a bad hair day!)

When I went into the Fleet Center and found my seat, I was absolutely speechless – I was no more than 50 feet away from the stage!! I had never been to the Fleet Center, so even though I saw a seating chart when I ordered my ticket, I had no way of visualizing the actual proximity to the stage. I was honestly stunned – I kept repeating "I don’t believe this", to myself and the people to my left and right. I went alone, which I know some people will think is kind of weird, but fortunately, I’m not the type of person who needs company in order to attend something like this; also, in this particular case, my enjoyment of AB’s music and my appreciation and respect of him as a person are personal to me – if I was with someone who didn’t share the the same emotions or enjoyment, it would have detracted from the experience for me.

The concert itself was unbelievable. Steven Mercurio started with the Star-Spangled Banner (complete with red, white and blue flashing lights); it was an unexpected touch, but it acted as a warm up for the audience and I think the thought was appreciated.

The program has been online, so I won’t go into the details of that.

The moment that S. Mercurio brought Andrea out onstage, the collective emotions in the crowd were almost palpable…for one simple person to elicit so much from so many is really remarkable. Through my observations (and a little eavesdropping), I noticed that the variety of people in the audience ranged from those who attend any live performance of any "famous" person, to those whose only awareness of AB comes from his duet with Sarah Brightman and the TV show ‘The Sopranos’ to those who have followed his career from the beginning…and I suppose the occasional oddball like myself (but I didn’t meet them).

Some people traveled a ways – the two women on my right were from Vermont and New Hampshire, the couple in front of me had come down from New Hampshire also. Every age group was represented – of course, there were couples of all ages, but there were young men and women attending with their friends, whole families and of course, our local Italian-American community was well represented. I took particular note of the crowd so I could report back to my coworker that it wasn’t primarily middle-aged women!!

It’s such a common human experience to glorify someone because of all you‘ve seen, heard or read, but there’s usually some disappointment when you actually see them in person. The best part of this concert was that there was NO DISAPPOINTMENT!!! To actually see Andrea standing there, singing as he does – the same way he’s stood and sung on TV or the videos I’ve seen – I really can’t explain it. You wait to actually see him, and then there he is…you wait to hear him, and he starts to sing – perfectly. Not having an "educated ear" I wouldn’t be able to point out any technical faults in his performance, but as an average (but devoted) listener, my ears heard beauty. At different moments, people around me were saying "Bravo!" or wiping away tears, or in the case of AB’s singing "Melodramma," the gentleman sitting next to me was singing along (quietly).

During all the comings and goings (AB led onstage, led off, led onstage, led off) he never spoke until he introduced "Because": "OK, now I have to talk." This got an appreciative laugh from the audience. He spoke of the first time he heard it as sung by Mario Lanza and dedicated the song to the audience.

In the second half of the concert, I was surprised by "Melodramma," simply because it was performed EXACTLY as recorded on CIELI DI TOSCANA – I didn’t think a live performance of any song could be of the same perfect quality of a recording. AB played the flute in this song. I hope he plays it in other concerts; I’ve become aware that a great number of people don’t realize that AB is an accomplished musician.

Even though I was so close to the stage, I used the binoculars I took simply because I wanted to be able to see him smile at the end of a song. They also provided me with an opportunity to watch him closely during some songs, and I could see that he trembled slightly (intensity? emotion?) when a note was held (in some cases, unbelievably long) or the high notes were hit and extended. It was incredible.

Then an electric keyboard was brought out and AB sat down; my first thought was that now I could see him as he was before he was "discovered"…sitting at a keyboard in a bar (a lounge singer); it helped put things in perspective for me. BUT – when he started to sing "My Way," the audience reaction was unbelievable – we all know the song, we all know it was written for Frank Sinatra, and yet knowing AB’s story, it is SO APPROPRIATE for him to sing. Sinatra had such a different life than AB and the song came out as he was making another comeback; when AB sang it, the song became representative of higher ideals and was literally heart-wrenching (this was the song that put the tears in MY eyes). The emotional support and acknowledgement of hard-earned success coming from the audience at the end of this song should have been bottled for AB to take with him to open if he ever feels down or ever needs continued encouragement…it was that strong.

I have to wonder who brought this song to AB’s attention, or did he discover it himself? His English was almost perfect; I don’t know how much English he can speak at this point – I can only hope that the song means to him what it meant to us to hear him sing it. I also hope it appears on his next "pop" CD, which I personally think it will. If they put that on a CD along with "Because" (which was also a tear-jerker) I don’t think the stores will be able to keep it in stock.

I commend Steven Mercurio and Ana Maria Martinez; in personality and talent they complement AB perfectly. They both have a new fan in me.

When the concert was over and I went outside, I kept taking deep breaths, thinking I must have been holding it for the past 2 hours – however, even as I sit here writing this, I STILL can’t explain what it all made me feel. I know he has a beautiful voice that I enjoy and appreciate, that calms and excites (or, in the case of "Il Diavolo E L’Angelo," is simply fun); I know that I admire his courage and talent; I know that I respect his intelligence greatly; and I know that I feel an affinity to some of the emotions he expresses…

We can only wish him continued success and pray that he’s happy (and gets some rest!).


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