You should have seen what your mother was up to Friday night.
She was squealing and screaming. She was whooping and whistling. She was shaking it and getting down. And she was loving every minute of it.
All that can only mean one thing: Il Divo were back in town at MTS Centre, working their popera magic for 9,000 women and the men who love them (or at least couldn’t get out of going with them). And proving once and for all that they truly are Backstreet Boys for big girls. The Jonas Brothers for moms. New Kids on the Block for block parents.
All those boy-band comparisons aren’t just hot air. There is, after all, a good reason why they call their music popera. The five-year-old international phenomenon — opera singers Carlos Marín, Urs Bühler and David Miller, along with pop vocalist Sébastien Izambard — are as wildly popular as any rockin’ teenage combo. And they came just as well-equipped as any arena-rock outfit. Their giant stage sported an illuminated staircase and a massive ringed runway a la U2 that extended to the centre of the arena and enclosed a few lucky fans inside the action. Behind them was a full-size video screen that switched between closeups of the vocalists and artsy videos (a few of which featured scantily clad women for all the captive husbands in the house). Above it all hung a giant rig that included a postmodern cubist chandelier and a high-powered lighting show — which was used to majestic and striking effect from the moment the four singers took the stage to the strains of Somewhere from West Side Story.
They arrived at the top of those stairs, stylishly clad in complementary black Armani outfits — the first of four ensembles they donned over the course of the two-hour, two-act show. They descended one by one, with each getting his own introductory lines — and his own introductory ovation from the ladies.
There was David the American, with the spiky hair and the boy-next-door looks of an American Idol. Urs the Swiss sophisticate, with his mile-high cheekbones, urbane manner and flowing hair. Sébastien the reserved but good-natured Frenchman. And then there was Carlos. The Latin lover. He was clearly the crowd favourite. And no wonder. With his shirt perpetually opened midway down his chest and one curl rakishly draped over his forehead, Carlos was the one the ladies ogled the most (including the one next to me who cracked, "Hey, I may be getting older, I may be married — but I’m not dead!"). And Carlos obligingly ogled right back, making eye contact with every single woman he could — along with nodding, grinning, winking, mugging and essentially doing everything he could to convince every female in the house that she was his one true inamorata.
Between all of that, of course, there was singing. Plenty of it. And make no mistake, these dudes can wail. Backed by a four-piece band augmented by a 12-piece orchestra, they worked their way through an impressive 24-song show that blended operatic works, show tunes, Vegas lounge standards and lushly reworked multi-lingual versions of pop tunes from Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart to Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. On paper, it sounds like a horrible cheesefest. And sure, there was a certain amount of Velveeta to be had in sweeping covers of The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin and Abba’s Winner Takes it All. But surprisingly, they make it work most of the time with their perfectly balanced vocal blend: Carlos is the romantic baritone belter; Sébastien and Urs possess rich, creamy tenors; and David handles many of the the breathy, delicate parts.
Ultimately, though, their real power comes from the way they handle the crowd. Their stage moves seemed languid and casual, but were clearly as meticulously choreographed as a synchronized swim routine: Each singer moved from side to side and front to back in symmetrical rotation, so fans all got face time with their fave. It was just the beginning. At one point, Carlos (of course) called for a dance contest during the flamenco-tinged La Vida Sin Amor — "to see who is the most sexy," he purred — prompting a few dozen women to sashay seductively up to the stage, only to be turned back by slightly overzealous security (it wasn’t as if they were going to storm the stage, after all). Once the encore arrived, with the boys donning matching tieless tuxes and moving through the crowd to the strains of Amazing Grace, even security couldn’t keep the fans from swarming up front like kids at a festival. They came bearing gifts: Pictures and roses and candy and Timbits, all of which were accepted good-naturedly by the singers, who shook hands, smiled for photos, signed programs — and even autographed at least one boob, if one woman overheard bragging after the show was telling the truth. Then they triumphantly strolled back up that runway as they sang The Impossible Dream, after making thousands of women’s dreams come true, at least for a couple of hours.
After that, well, we wager there were more than a few husbands being called Carlos last night. And we bet they loved every minute of it.