John From CT
The moment that I had been waiting for since last October had finally arrived. My first Il Volo concert!
My career as an ilvolover began exactly a year ago when a group of coworkers and I decided to learn Italian. I wanted our lesson plans to include topics of interest and all of us agreed that “traditional Italian music” should be a part of our studies. My first Google search produced a YouTube video of “O Sole Mio” by you-know-who. Before this moment, I had never even heard of Il Volo, and when I sat down with my fellow students to watch a couple of videos of the guys, everyone was floored. The rest as they say, is history.
The Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, CT is the perfect venue for this type of event, with a 4600 seat auditorium which is wider than it is deeper. Except for a few rear seats in the upper balcony, we had a full house. As the concert approached, those seats were discounted down to $33 by LiveNation so even someone with a limited budget would have been able to participate. Our seats were in the 7th row from the stage, nearly perfectly centered, and with an incredible view.
JOHN’S IL VOLO CONCERT RULE #1: BUY THE BEST TICKETS THAT YOU CAN POSSIBLY AFFORD. Although not everyone has the means to buy a $225 ticket for a meet-&-greet, the difference between a $75 standard ticket and a $125 ticket in the tenth row center is not out of reach for most people. Don’t eat for a week, skip 10 visits to Dunkin Donuts, do anything you can to get yourself up front. Even though we are all there for their voices, the additional joy of seeing their faces, their expressions, their gestures etc. up close adds an incredible dimension to the whole experience which cannot be enjoyed as much when it is projected on a side-mounted video screen from several hundred feet away. If you are not going to attend an M&G, this is the closest you are going to get to the guys, and the incremental cost is worth it.
We were lucky to be at one of the few concerts with a full orchestra conducted by Il Maestro Diego Basso; I counted about 22 musicians and to their credit, they were incredible. I know that some of the concerts have had or will have a recorded soundtrack with a lesser amount of live musicians, but don’t let that disappoint you in any way. The opening number, “Ouverture”, appeared to be a recording accompanied by a handful of musicians, and it sounded great for what it was. If you are an audiophile who demands pure symphonic perfection, an Il Volo concert is not for you anyway; for the 99.99% of the rest of us, it will do just fine. The sound level and quality were perfect but of course this is also dependent on the acoustic qualities of the venue.
We have read several negative comments elsewhere about the laser / strobe / LED lighting effects. Honestly, I did not find these to be any trouble at all. Occasionally a beam of light would hit me in the face, but in general we had no problem with the more intense lighting and in any event it was only present during the more animated numbers and not during the quieter pieces.
JOHN’S IL VOLO CONCERT RULE #2: DO NOT WASTE PRECIOUS TIME TRYING TO RECORD THE CONCERT WITH A SMARTPHONE. Time after time, I saw many others holding up their phones for extended periods of time watching the concert on a 2-inch by 4-inch screen. For what? So you can have a collection of grainy, poorly-lit, jittery videoclips of the most incredible voices of our generation? If you can afford an iPhone and a monthly AT&T bill of $150, then you can afford to buy the beautifully recorded PBS concerts from Pompeii & Detroit. If you need to prove to someone that you were there, take a picture of your ticket and put it up on Facebook.
The songs included the following – “Il Mondo, Volare, L’immensita, Io che non vivo, Tonight, En Aranjuez con tu amor, E lucevan le stelle, Piove, Beautiful that way, Delilah, Caruso, My way, Quando l’amore diventa poesia, Unchained melody, Eternally, O paese do sole, Anema e core, No puede see, O sole mio, Grande amore” etc etc. Each piece featured the perfect combination of all three, of duets, or of solo performances. Piero’s two operatic pieces and Gianluca’s “Anema e core” had me shaking my head in astonishment; Ignazio’s solos and duets were truly world-class, and their soaring voices in ALL their numbers were as close to perfect as is humanly possible, especially for a group of 20-ish year olds. I was a bit disappointed that they did not perform some of my recent favorites including “La vita, L’amore si muove, and Canzone per te”, but since it was my first concert I was glad that I was able to hear some of their earlier works in this setting. The Connecticut audience was an older, more reserved crowd, with many ethnic Italians, many first-timer Americans, and a handful of younger 20-ish and 30-ish attendees who appeared to be having a great time as well. I expected everyone to stand up and sway to “Volare” but nobody did. They guys received about 15 standing ovations, which I had never experienced in any kind of live performance of any kind. The mix of English, Italian, and a couple of Spanish selections was appropriate for this audience as well; the in-between banter and comedy was mostly in English and was entertaining without being excessive; our resident clown Ignazio was hilarious while providing smooth transitions between the songs. The evening featured 1 hour & 55 minutes of musical and vocal bliss for anyone of any age.
JOHN’S IL VOLO CONCERT RULE #3: LEARN SOME ITALIAN. We all know that Italian is a beautiful language and that even a description of a root canal procedure can sound romantic, exotic, and heavenly simply because it is in Italian. Understanding the lyrics when Gianluca croons “Te voglio bene” (I love you) or when Piero cries “E muoio disperato” (I die in desperation) or when Ignazio proclaims “Quando vivo, vivo solo in te” (When I live, I live only in you) makes a huge difference – I cannot stress how knowing some of the language will add immensely to the concert experience, as well as when you are listening to their music at home. If you cannot take professional language classes, then get yourself a Berlitz Phrase Book for travelers, enroll in low-cost classes at a nearby school or community center, or if you can navigate online then download free language podcasts that you can play on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. And if you ever get the opportunity to travel in Italy you will have a more fulfilling experience if you can communicate to any extent in Italiano. All of my fellow students were so happy that we could get more of their message in their native tongue than if we simply had imagined what they were saying or were reading about it afterwards. In preparation for the concert, we took a bunch of their songs and dissected the lyrics line by line, using the website LyricsTranslate as a starting point. I went to the extreme of copying every one of their songs on to my Notes app on my iPhone, so I can constantly have all their lyrics in Italian, English and some in Spanish with me at all times; this proved to be a great tool for expanding my vocabulary as well.
Finally – the Meet & Greet. For most of us, $225 (and more in some venues) is a lot of money. $100 of that amount was for my M&G upcharge and the reality is that all you are going to get is about an hour of waiting around nervously in a semi-circular conga line with a bunch of other fans and about sixty seconds of “semi-quality” time with your idols. I will repeat this to who ever asks: It was the best $100 I ever spent in my life. For most of us with “regular” lives, sharing even one minute in person with someone who has brought you so much joy in life is truly a special time to be cherished forever. The thrill, the “special-ness”, the anticipation, the contact that you shared is even more meaningful when the next day you have to drive to work and punch a clock and get back to the real world. This is one of things that you have to do once in your life even if it defies logic (“I could buy a week’s worth of groceries” blah blah blah). If you can afford it, DO IT.
JOHN’S IL VOLO CONCERT RULE #4: PREPARE FULLY FOR YOUR M&G AND MAKE PRELIMINARY CONTACT. As you all know, a lot has been written on FlightCrew about this topic and the advice I received from all of you proved invaluable. While we were waiting in line, we got to observe many fans who got up to the guys and only managed to blurt out a weak “Thank You” or “You were great” or “Please, can I take a picture”. Many of the attendees were so star-struck or tired or unprepared that I imagine the whole thing must have been somewhat of an anti-climax for them. Not for me! While waiting, I made sure to make eye contact with the guys as much as I could. I had the supreme advantage of being 6’2” and sporting a military-style haircut so I stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. While others were texting away on their smartphones, I was aiming to grab their attention and smiling each time so that when it would be my turn I would just not be another in an endless stream of fans going through the motions. I decided that I was not going to bother with taking low-quality selfies with my phone especially as the event photographer was in place to take a burst of properly framed and lit digital photos.
My turn arrives. I firmly shake each of their hands. “Guys, I want to thank you not just for a wonderful experience tonight, but for introducing me to your “bel canto” style of music and for opening my eyes to the world of opera, and for bringing so much joy and a little bit of Italia into my home.” Their eyes and smiles could have illuminated the darkest of nights. Then I proceeded to tell them in perfectly practiced and accented Italian – “La tua musica mi ha ispirato per imparare l’italiano!” (Your music has inspired me to learn Italian!) Gianluca gave me a big “thumbs-up”, Piero just said “WOW”, and Ignazio put his arm around my shoulder and said something like “Thank you, that’s what we like to do.” Photo time went by quickly, and then the others in my group had their turns. After the official M&G was over, the guys mingled with the crowd for a bit, I got a quick chance to say hello to Barbara V, and that was it.
I made my way back to my car on a bitterly cold night, not sad that that it was all over, but with a sense of joy and warmth that yes, even for a short 3 hours, I had a wonderful visit with my three new “friends” from Italia.