It’s been over a year since my last post due to my crazy work schedule, my new photography hobby, spending time in Colombia, South America and in Yorkshire, England. Now I finally have the time to get back into full “Il Volo” mode. Needless to say, the boys have been with me every day, safely tucked in the playlists of my iPhone, constantly at my side through all my adventures, the endless late nights at the office, providing joy and comfort during all the great times and some pretty difficult ones as well. Before I go on to review the two concerts that I recently had the great privilege of attending, I’d like to mention a few other topics that have been on my mind.
Music Makes The World Go ‘Round
I was born in 1961. As a kid I was always surrounded by music at home. I grew up with The Beatles. I SO wanted to BE Paul McCartney. I worshipped John Lennon. My late teens and 20’s found me dancing to the beats of Blondie and The Pretenders in the new wave rock clubs of downtown New York City. Then it Was Springsteen and Billy Joel. World music. Latin Music. Colombian Folk. I even went through a country music phase as well. As a “grownup”, my tastes moved towards adult contemporary culminating with an absolute love for Adele. My 50th birthday surprisingly brought me to an appreciation of some classical music. I’ve been through them all. Every genre, every stage of my life zigging from this and zagging to that. And then on the morning of February 15, 2015, it happened. My Italian language study group accidentally stumbled upon the YouTube video of the boys singing “O Sole Mio.” Everything stopped. Who were these guys? Was there more? We discovered all their songs. This was very different – for me personally, they made an instant and profound impact. Those voices. The harmonies. The melodies. The lyrics. Their personalities. I had to hear ALL their songs. I had to STUDY them. I had to translate them. I had to dissect every word they said and every note they sang. At the same time, my interest in European travel and Italian cuisine and culture were at its peak. Every aspect of my life was starting to weave itself around Italia. Then came the irony of ironies: “Notte Magica” and Florence. Opera. John listening to opera! And then– “Musica che resta” – Music that remains. Music that lasts. They say in life they save the best for last. I am so grateful that during my life’s journey I had all this music to follow me around. You should be too. Music is wonderful. Music is important. And if this is the music that will matter to me for the rest of my life, then I’m happy. Very happy.
“Amame” and the Spanish market
As soon as most of us heard the songs on the Spanish language “Amame” album, many of us probably scratched our heads and thought of only one thing: “Why?” As a native Spanish speaker, I’ll tell you why. There are 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world. Figure out how many are female and how many are under the age of 20. That group just became an instant audience for Il Volo. Ever see the videos of screaming girls at the airports in Mexico City and Buenos Aires and Santo Domingo waiting for the boys to arrive? Instant audience. The modern reality is that musical artists generate a large portion of their income form touring. And more song sales generate more ticket sales. And to generate those song sales you need larger audiences. Do you think the “business” of Il Volo is going to survive with only traditional Italian “Bel Canto” songs and “Pop Opera” hits? It can’t. It won’t. This was pure marketing genius. And I proved it to myself with my Spanish speaking friends and relatives. I played “Amame” for them. They immediately acknowledged it sounded “different.” And the difference became clear. The voices. The talent. The arrangements were catchy and fun, the boys stood out even when their voices were submerged in the tropical Latin rhythms. While today much of this genre of music is laced with negative themes and/or sex, the boys did it with thought-provoking, positive ideas such as dedication, romance, love, overcoming life’s difficulties etc. I introduced them to their other music. My “audience” expanded their musical horizons just like Il Volo expanded ours. They were hooked. If this is what it takes to maintain their commercial success and longevity, I’m all for it and we should all appreciate it.
Five Years for John. Ten Years for the boys.
My five years with the boys brought me to concerts in Connecticut in 2016 and 2017, Verona in 2017, and Rome in 2019. Finally, “The Best of 10 Years” tour had arrived with two concerts for me, the first on Feb. 1 at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut (Row 2 Orchestra) and the second as a gift at the Wang Theater in Boston on Feb. 3. (Row 1 Orchestra).
A reminder of some of my previous “Il Volo Concert Rules”: #1. Buy the best tickets you can possibly afford. Start saving NOW for the next concert. The reality is that not everyone can afford a $500+ Meet & Greet Row 1 or Row 2 seat, but believe me, it is worth it. Seeing them 10 feet away from you – seeing every movement, every expression, every twinkle in their eyes is an experience you will never forget. #2. Don’t waste time holding up a smartphone trying to record it all. You will miss out on a lot. Concentrate on each individual word and the sounds you are hearing. #3. Learn some Italian. It will add a new dimension to what you are experiencing. #4. If you are doing the Meet & Greet, prepare! After all these years I still see fans walking up sheepishly to the boys shaking their hands, taking the official photo, and slink away in disappointment. Practice what you are going to say. Don’t waste valuable time convincing them that your grandmother’s house in Italy was in the village right next to theirs. Instead, thank them for the joy they’ve brought into your lives. Tell them which is your favorite song. Give them a big hug. They are so friendly and approachable. Your time with them is about 30 seconds. Make it memorable!
New rule for 2020: Register with the Official Fan Club and go to the soundcheck. This is a MUST. The modest yearly fee is worth it and you also get to meet other fans from around the world online. I met a couple of lovely ladies from the club in the lobby and we had a great time in advance of the concert. The Boston soundcheck started at 5:20pm when they escorted us into the empty theater and we got to sit in the tenth row and take it all in. There were about 20 fan club participants and the check lasted about 20 minutes. They rehearsed different passages from a variety of songs to be performed. They adjust the system volumes and the lighting and the orchestra members get to prepare and adjust their instruments. It is so cool to watch. And then, when they were done, the boys jumped off the stage and came down to hang out with the fans for about 10 minutes. Think about it. 20 fans. 3 Il Volos. 10 minutes. Everyone had plenty of time to joke around and chat and hug and take selfies and ask them questions. It was incredible! And it is basically FREE! They do announce at the beginning that there is no guarantee that you will have time to interact with the boys depending on their time restraints but I think it’s worth taking the chance. Afterwards, we were allowed to exit the theater into the lobby until the 715pm-730pm door opening. Use the time to mingle. I met the Mintons and others. Share your stories.
It is important to note that the current tour is comparable to a “Greatest Hits” record, spanning their entire career. Although I would have loved to hear more selections from their recent “Musica” album, I feel the setlist was a good selection of older and recent, classic and modern, Italian and English (plus two in Spanish), dramatic and sentimental, calm and vibrant. Each show lasted approximately 2hrs 5min without any intermissions.
The setlist of 26 songs was as follows, with a slightly different mix between Connecticut & Boston: Nessum Dorma, Granada, Il Mondo, Un Amore Cosi’ Grande, Surrender, Memories, Bridge Over Troubled Water, No Puede Ser, Arriverderci Roma, My Way, Caruso, Maria, Mattinata, O’Paese d’o Sole, Delilah, Core ‘ngrato, People, Smile, ‘O Surdato ‘nnamurato, Tonight, She’s Always A Woman, Where do I begin (Love Story), Mamma, Libiamo ne’lieti calici, O Sole Mio, Volare, and finally, a triple long Grande Amore while they jump around the stage waving at everyone until the climactic end.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. They get better year after year. Just when you think they’ve reached new heights, they top themselves each time. Their voices have matured. Their performances are nearly flawless (except when Ignazio fumbled the opening to Grande Amore and burst out laughing). They are a joy to watch as they joke and chat between songs. Jump up and give them the standing ovations they deserve; they will acknowledge them and they do appreciate them. Yell out “Bravo” at the top of your lungs, or “Bravi” if more than one is on stage. They love that stuff and they will deserve it. They are the same humble, down-to-earth, professional, enchanting group of guys that we all know and love.
And finally, as fast as it came, it all passed by, and came to an end. The lights come back on, and your head is shaking back and forth not believing what you just heard and saw. “The Best of 10 Years”. Oh yes. It was.