December 9/10, 2005
Lake Las Vegas Resort, Nevada, US
Amore under the desert stars

That’s Amore
Flying west, sometime after sighting the vast, snow-capped peaks of the Rockies, the terrain below began its transition to red-tinged, arid expanses that suddenly opened awesomely into the Grand Canyon…not more than 25 minutes later we were landing at McCarron Airport in Las Vegas. Once more Andrea had coaxed us to adventuring…
The concept of Lake Las Vegas resort, where the concerts took place to introduce the new CD Amore, was to create a change of pace from Las Vegas—a little bit of calming Italy as an antidote to the frenetic Vegas glitz, 20 miles away. The setting is nicely done: gently winding strade; stucco walls of typical Tuscan apricot, rose, and creamy hues; graceful arches; sun-baked, clay-tiled roofs; the familiar campanile of the village chiesa…oh, right, this is Vegas…I mean the village casino; splashing fountains, little piazzas, a recreated Ponte Vecchio.
Our room at the Ritz had a balcony—irresistible! The Florentine garden below was charmingly curlequed with green hedges, intense fuchsia colored cyclamen, and white roses—row upon row of them—blooming in December! Sun was glowing on the terra-cotta tiled rooftops, the sound of a fountain played in the distance, and dio….out of nowhere, unmistakable, warm, secure, and full, the VOICE intoned the four, simple opening notes of "Amapola." Andrea was already rehearsing out there!! At unthinkable speed for beings of our age, we found our way to ground level, through the garden maze, up the rustic stone stairway, and down the gently sloping pathway to the water’s edge of Lake Las Vegas where the stage holding Andrea floated serenely. There we settled in blissfully to listen, along with anyone else in the vicinity lucky enough to be there at that moment. This rehearsal seemed to be open to all. Brilliant sun, brilliant azure sky, desert hills framing the backdrop and right there before us was Andrea, looking ultimately relaxed and leaning into the Latin rhythms with unassuming ease.

Lake Las Vegas, Dec 9, 2005, Andrea rehearsing, thanks to Karen!

There was really little difference between this rehearsal and the actual concerts (and I’m afraid this discourse blends them all together). All had a tentative, serendipitous quality—a behind-the-scenes perspective for those of us in the audience. Although the afternoon had been nearly balmy, by the time Andrea took the stage Friday (accompanied by Cristina Gelsi), it was twilight and the cold of the winter desert had gained the upper hand. Did those chic but pathetically underclad young Las Vegas VIP women think this was going to be an indoor concert?? Three layers of clothing cocooned in one of the fleece blankets they were handing out to all who came through the gates were the appropriate evening attire. Unfortunately, a blanket-swathed Andrea was not quite the star image the producers had in mind for this event. His black velvet blazer, iridescent silky-gray shirt, loose black scarf, and jeans, although boss, were no match for the extreme cold. And boy did we hear about it from the tenor! Easily 90% of Andrea’s comments throughout the two evenings were related in some way to cold. He sighed that his fingers were too numb to play the piano. He asked if it would be OK to jump up and down a little to keep warm. He wise-cracked, "Is there an ice cream for me?" He came up with a good plan of attack to beat the cold: "I think I should send to Armani for a warm sweater!" A good deal of his creative energy was directed to finding imaginative ways of dislodging David Foster from the coveted seat at the piano, persistently offering, "Would you like me to play for you something?" (because this was where a strategic heater was discreetly hidden). But through it all—the bitter cold, the starting and stopping of the taping process, the little jokes from David Foster, the long hours deprived of precious pasta—the easygoing, good nature that underlies his character shone through. Andrea has internal resources to spare. Foster remarked at one point that there aren’t many stars of the stature of Bocelli who would subject themselves to such cold to entertain their audience.
David Foster was the host, musical director, executive producer, and accompanist for the event, and he emphasized enthusiastically that this first contemporary concert of Andrea’s was a historic happening. Andrea began by noting, in reference to "Besame Mucho" that it had been many, many, many years ago, maybe 30, (well he’s a tenor not a mathematician), when he had played at the piano bars, that he had last done anything like this kind of an evening. He certainly seemed to be enjoying this musical walk down memory lane. My god he was talking right and left, perched on a stool, lounging on the stage stairway between takes while he sang a little parody to himself about "pasta time," improvising at the keyboard, playing straight guy or fall guy by turns to David Foster’s glib repartee. Our Mr. ad lib was throwing out the one-liners like a stand-up pro…he was, well, he was having FUN! They were both having fun, and the two personalities worked well off each other. One high energy, the other laid-back.
Lake Las Vegas, Dec 9, 2005, Andrea and David Foster, thanks to Karen!
At one point Foster screwed up an introduction, and they had to start the taping again. Upset with himself, he couldn’t hold back the mild obscenity that escaped in a whisper, at first. Then he decided to just get it out there and repeated the mildly offensive little word right out loud into the microphone. "Did you hear that Andrea?" Foster called loudly. "I just said, "Oh sh__, right here in front of everybody." Andrea stood quietly for a moment, waited precisely long enough, raised the microphone to his mouth, then evenly uttered his adorably accented chastisement, "Naughty boy," capping it with the editorial comment of his broad, mischievous grin. The comic timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It was priceless.
Foster tried to lure him into some extra vocals. "Andrea, how about a little Puccini" got him absolutely no response. "Andrea, how about a little Sinatra" yielded "My Way" but Andrea would go no further than offering a couple of measures on the piano, unaccompanied by his own voice. At one little lull in the taping, Foster started the unmistakable hard-driving, pulsing intro to "Satisfaction," and for an exhilarating minute it seemed that we might experience the heady first of hearing this classically trained tenore wailing the infamous "I can’t get no, sa—tis—fac—tion." But ‘twas not to be. Andrea feigned impossible ignorance of this particular "tune." But after considering silently for a moment, as a consolation, he did proffer a few lines of the instantly recognizable Beatles song "Yesterday," which was apparently more in his comfort zone.
Andrea offered a range of little musical fillers at the keyboard sprinkled throughout his time onstage, not just to warm up but mostly to keep from boredom and also because it is seemingly impossible for him to be still for very long. It was fascinating: a little Scott Joplin ragtime, a classical morsel of "Moonlight Sonata," a random snatch of "Happy Birthday," and, unaccountably, two verses of "September Morn" in perfect English!! Of all the probing questions about Andrea that have filtered through my mind at idle moments, not once have I ever asked myself if he had any Neil Diamond CDs in his home collection…"September Morn" and "Nessun Dorma" all in one week…way to go Andrea!
The ease of his voice in pop mode is deceptive because it is rooted in years worth —day, after day, after day—of the disciplined, technical acrobatics of classical training. That voice. There always seems to be one song where Andrea feels his strength and—just for the heck of it—holds that note for all it’s worth. I couldn’t tell you which song it was from this concert, but he did it, and it never fails to create a little reactive ripple of disbelief and awe. And after all the years of listening to him, we think we know every subtle nuance of Andrea’s voice, yet he manages every time to pull a vocal rabbit out of his hat—this time it was during a jazzy number, whose name I can’t remember, accompanied by trumpet and bass. Caught up in the spirit of improvisation, Andrea indulged in "scatting." But what I had heard of it before from singers seemed somewhat awkward and—well, weird. With Andrea it took on a playful elegance and ease. Hearing it from him, it seemed astonishing at first, until you consider that there is not such a big gap between the nonsense syllables of scat and some of the quirky vocal exercises designed to develop the flexibility in a classical voice and. It is yet another instance of his versatility.
Luminaries were introduced from the audience. Mary Hart, anchor of Entertainment Tonight, was there. Mr. Boedekker, mastermind of the Las Vegas Resort complex and ardent Bocelli fan, took a little bow. Foster introduced Michele as Andrea’s longtime friend and manager and needed a little assistance with his last name. Andrea noted that in Italian "Torpedine is an electric fish. "A dangerous one," he added impishly. Caterina Caselli, of Sugar Productions was there Saturday too and was recognized as the woman who signed Andrea and launched it all. Andrea gallantly added that she is a great singer in her own right. 
Lake Las Vegas, Dec 10, 2005, Nico singing "Ave verum corpus" accompanied by Andrea, thanks to Nico's grandma Marj! And we won’t soon forget the astonishing poise of little 10-year-old Nico, who was called up on stage to sing a surprisingly mature rendition of "Ave Verum Corpus," charmingly and patiently accompanied by Andrea, because Foster had run into his grandma in the hotel lobby and liked what he heard.
No one would have introduced him, but I have to give a little plug to my newfound friend, camera guy Danny, tight-shot wizard. His well-worn 56th Emmy Awards hat hinted at his experienced background. We learned later that he had 26 Academy Awards ceremonies since the 1980s under his belt and movie experience with Spielberg and Coppola. Anyway, when Danny noticed that just before the show started a woman managed to sit in front of me and totally obstruct my view, he motioned for me to come sit beside him at the camera station. I had the best seat in the house…seeing the best of both worlds—Andrea live and unobstructed and AB close-ups, snapshot through the camera’s eye. (Let me tell you, it will be really hard to go back to plain old binoculars for the next concert!) Anyway the point is that they had gathered the best technical crew to work on this show. Humberto Gatica (of "We Are the World" fame) was audio producer; Peter Morse was lighting designer (among his credits, Ringling Brothers, Disney, presidential galas, and a string of stars); David Horn was coproducer (Statue of Liberty concert, Great Performances, American Masters, 9/11 tributes). Credits for each are impossible to list and they are Emmy award winners all. Also the best musicians were there to bring new rhythms and sounds for Andrea to this CD. A friend of Foster’s had flown in from Holland just to play harmonica for one song. I wish I could credit all the capable individual musicians, each expert at their craft, each of whom Andrea mentioned appreciatively by name along with the composers as he introduced his songs…but this isn’t music I have followed much, until now. Andrea opening new horizons for us as always.
Heather Hedley of Broadway’s Aida and also The Lion King fame sang "The Prayer" with Andrea. It was a completely different pairing from the intently reverent version with Celine Dion. Heather’s voice (Andrea liked the sound of her name) evoked echoes of "soul" and free-wheeling blues and spirituals that were emotionally charged in combination with the power of Andrea’s voice. Both nights it brought the house down with a standing ovation.
By now everyone knows that "Can’t Help Falling in Love" was a highlight of the concert. Foster set it up: "Andrea, do you have something special for us tonight? Maybe something that would be particularly appropriate for Las Vegas?" Andrea thinks for a moment, says sure, and steps around to the piano. "OK. Play something like an arpeggio, in F. Something like this…" Then the beautifully lilting phrase began, "Wise men say, Only fools rush in, But I can’t help falling in love, with you…." The audience responded in delighted recognition, and as Andrea sang, that simple melodic statement literally became reality… it wasn’t possible in that moment, in that place, under the velvety black desert sky, to resist falling in love with this voice and the man whose heart and soul produced it.

Lake Las Vegas, Dec 10, 2005, Veronica joining Andrea on stage, copyright

There were other surprise highlights. Veronica, elegant in rich chocolate velvet gown, joined Andrea to sing a few lines in English of "Les Feuilles Mortes" ("Autumn Leaves") alternating with Andrea’s spoken lines. It was very effective. Such an easy rapport between them that seemed to reflect the sure knowledge that each knows where they fit in the other’s world. 
Lake Las Vegas, Dec 10, 2005, Tony Renis singing "Quando" accompanied by Andrea, copyright
Tony Renis was called onstage to take a little bow and ended up doing a crazy little dance and more than a few bars of his famous "Quando, Quando Quando" with Foster and Bocelli pairing on the keyboard accompaniment. 
Then of course there was the grand finale of the song "Because We Believe" written by David Foster for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Torino. Andrea wrote the Italian lyrics (Foster’s daughter wrote the English ones). This final event of the evening was pure Las Vegas…the unforgettable combination of the quartet of divers silhouetted in the arches of the "Ponte Vecchio," flaming torches in hand, dramatically arching into the lake, the triumphant power of Andrea’s voice reaching the climatic bars of the inspirational anthem, and then, to top it all off, fireworks breaking out like mad behind him, compelling squeals of unadulterated delight from the audience. It was the perfect exuberant ending. But how could it have come so quickly…
Sunday, we were sitting at the airport again. Andrea had departed for his date in Fresno. Competing with the flight announcements echoing incessantly in the terminal, the voice of Frank Sinatra, vaguely registering in my subconscious, was singing "Jingle Bells." Ol’ blue eyes and Elvis are among those legends who have owned this entertainment mecca in the middle of nowhere. Who would have thought that Andrea could take his place in their midst so easily? It really was something very special, this time in Las Vegas. I am exhausted from the telling of it and still couldn’t manage to convey it all…a first time for Andrea and so much to enjoy with him. What a beautiful man, what a beautiful voice, what a beautiful circle of friends he has forged around him.
And this CD too—it’s going to be a beauty. Complimenti big guy! And thanks as always.
P.S. Impossible not to add that one of the very BEST surprises in Las Vegas was to see Renate there. All who had the gift from Andrea and Veronica of attending could thank her in person for the role she played on our behalf to make it happen.
by Cami McNamee


.. back from Vegas and the Bocelli experience
I don't know how to put this experience into words but I'll try!!!
we were at the awesomely glamorous Ritz Carlton in Lake Las Vegas on Friday and got the concert tickets from the lady who runs the Bocelli German fan club. Renate is her name;  I thank her !!!!!  She's Very gracious in her efforts and energies  with this!!!  lunch was in the casinos' deli--which is in a league all its own!!!
      we thought we heard music of his over the hotel system and walked out to a deck overlooking formal gardens  to pass the  time --only to realize he was actually rehearsing on the stage on the lake.  well we walked down and sat nearly face to face with him and the whole crew for the rehearsal for an hour and then some.  he is very pleasant, funny, spontaneous, and easily bored, relaxed and dignified  between television set up plans.  just wore jeans  loafers, ski type jacket...I am sure its not from Penny's!!!    he even went into a spontaneous version of a Sinatra song    but changed the words to his need for 'pasta me' now!!!!
     the orchestra was 35 symphonic types and 7 piece 'rock' type  group on a 100 by 40 [approx] foot floating stage; we we seated on terraced ampi-theatre type setting in folding chairs.  their  leader is David Foster who wrote the song 'the  prayer' that Bocelli did with celine dion; but with another woman here-who also had a strong clear soprano voice.  he and Bocelli wrote a song they will perform at the closing ceremonies  of the Italian winter games in February  it was an awesome experience--and this was just the rehearsal!!!  The actual taping  at the 'formal' show later was great but how can one top seeing a bit of his personal side !!!!  it was grand, besides the concert, cold and his joking around about the cold the finale was 4 Olympian type's jumped off a balcony of the famous  replica of Ponttevecchio Bridge in a timed part of the song where they and their torches dove what seemed like a 50 feet below to the water below then the fireworks and explosive finale began.  I can't wait to see the 'pbs '  thing when to airs in March  the songs were in my opinion, 30% fantastic, 30% what we need to hear  and 30 % I need to learn about ...but that's me..... not the world he needs to market him self to. 
Now how do I begin to explain the trip to the Harley Davidson shop off route 66 in Kingman??
One weekend and 2 great experiences!!!!!!
..not to mention Vegas and its  new show piece  casino--  Wynn ---and its new style of elegance which in decorated for the season 
This concert was  a life experience which makes one  rekindle thoughts of  the great side of life we often miss out on!!!!
by Bill Hirschmann


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