Andrea Bocelli: the “evangelical emissary” comes to Glasgow – live review

The Italian tenor puts the pow in power ballad

“If God had a singing voice, he would sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli,” once opined Céline Dion. She has a point. Seeing the great tenor in concert is like being visited by an evangelical emissary.

Bocelli, at the age of 61, has risen to become the undisputed classical heavyweight of the world. He’s the man on speed-dial if a special performance for a President, Pope, royal family, Olympic ceremony or World Cup is required.

To ascend to this position, it helps if you are a genre-straddling ‘crossover’ artist. This results in Glasgow’s 12,000-seater SSE Hydro being the centre of a Venn diagram. On one side classical purists who wouldn’t usually go to an arena gig, on the other, pop fans on the other who might not normally go to a concert where over 80 per cent of the lyrics are in a foreign language.

Formidable accompaniment is provided by the flawless Royal Philharmonic, joined by the Edinburgh Choral Union and the Glasgow Chamber Choir. There is also a merry-go-round of soloists plus a couple of lithe dancers.

But front and centre is Bocelli, a font of Tuscan charm, oozing effortless style and irresistible magnetism.

The first act is dominated by respectful renditions of pieces from the likes of Verdi and Puccini. A standard rhythm is set. Bocelli sings a couple for songs then gives the stage over to soloists. Soprano Maria Aleida hits the highest of frequencies in The Doll Aria from Les Contes d’Hoffman; Andrea Griminelli toots tunes from Ennio Morricone’s most memorable spaghetti western scores.

The second act becomes truly transcendental, as the intensity soars and the set leans more towards the pop end of the spectrum. Anthems that put the pow in power ballad, Granada, Because, If Only – released as a duet with Dua Lipa last year – invariably soar towards a towering note that could rip the roof off and Bocelli’s face bursts with a boyish blush of a smile when cheers from the audience reaches fever pitch.

O Sole Mio is followed by special guest Beverly Knight delivering her 2002 hit Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. It’s a bit of enjoyable juxtaposition and her honey-rich vocals combine in a delicious duet on Canto della Terra. Less well-known than the monumental Con te Partirò (Time to Say Goodbye), it nevertheless feels as familiar and essential as a pulse. The lyrics speak of the world spinning and in the arena it feels like the Earth really is shifting – if it’s not the Earth that’s quaking then it’s the heart.

Bocelli’s is a voice that envelops the epic and the intimate, and that is divine.

Andrea Bocelli’s album ‘Si Forever: The Diamond Edition’ is out on the November 8 on Decca Records. Andrea Bocelli’s world tour continues

Picture: Mark Seliger