Sunday, April 22, 2012

MICHAEL BOLTON Adelaide Thursday 19 April 2012

Adelaide Festival Theatre
Thursday April 19th 2012.

In the spirit full disclosure it must be said that Michael Bolton and I have had our issues in the past. When he was super popular in the 1980's and 90's he was the antithesis of anything I considered good in music. I found him to be pompous, overblown and over rated and could not for the life of me work out why he was more popular than The Smiths or Pulp. Then there was an incident I witnessed when he toured in the 90's and stayed at the same hotel as Depeche Mode involving Dave Gahan having an argument with Bolton and his minders because MB wouldn't sign a poor lady's programme. And there was the hair.

However there have been four things happen since that have made me put a few ticks in the Yes Bolton column in my ledger of rock. 1) Some years back I was watching Letterman and he introduced Luciano Pavarotti and Michael Bolton duetting on Pav's signature aria Nessun Dorma. This, I thought, should be hilarious. I mean he's Pavarotti, and Michael Bolton is well...Michael Bolton. Bolton DESTROYED Pavarotti, simply and un-arguably sang him under the table. His voice was astounding and the performance was spellbinding. 2) Last year he showed he had a great sense of humour by recording the hysterical Jack Sparrow with the Lonely Island comedy rock band. The video of which saw him kissing seagulls and being dressed as Johnny Depp, Forrest Gump, Scarface, and most disturbingly Erin Brockovich. 3) Adelaide's most hirsute band The Beards have a Michael Bolton cover band side project called Bolty Bolt & The Bolton's and watching them I discovered how many of his songs were in my brain already. And lastly - he cut that hair!

The Festival Theatre is packed to the brim with Bolt-Heads (I swear this is what fans are called) and the presence of the excellent Adelaide Symphony Orchestra mean we can expect a lush sound this evening. As the band and Orchestra vamps on Soul Provider, Bolton arrives on stage to a rapturous welcome. He is very charismatic and works the stage. In between songs he fields people yelling out well wishes like a stand up comedian. "We have people strategically placed around the auditorium to shout things during the show." he deadpans.  His voice is absolute dynamite, strong and powerful and perfect for the sort of power ballads that made him the King of that oeuvre in the 80's. He does a great version of the Bee Gees To Love Somebody, before doing a stripped back rendition of his 1993 hit Said I Loved You..But I Lied. You Don't Know Me from the Vintage album has people behind me coo-ing and ahh-ing all the way through. He introduced one of his many special guests to the stage and it home grown rock guitar chick Orianthi. He name checks her mum and her dad, her sister, in fact her whole family, which impresses everybody. They crank up the volume for a smouldering Sweet Home Chicago, with Michael and Orianthi trading blues licks at the front of the stage. They are powering along and Bolton's saxophone player and backing singer/clarinet/trumpet player are wailing away. However there is a full horn section sitting at the rear of the stage doing nothing and it could have been cranked up to a whole new level by utilizing them. It is often a problem when a 'rock' band does stuff with an orchestra, getting the balance right. You don't want to over use a symphony orchestra, but the opposite is also true.

The band and ASO do They Can't Take That Away From Me while Michael goes off for a change of clothing for the Swing section of the show. In 2006 he released the Bolton Swings Sinatra album and his voice really suits the style. Fly Me To The Moon is excellent, and he introduces guest vocalist Kelly Levesque to duet on the next few numbers. A great take of Over The Rainbow and his massive hit How Am I Supposed to Live Without You lead to the classic David Foster song The Prayer.

He tells a lovely story about working with Luciano Pavarotti and dedicates Nessun Dorma to "The Greatest Tenor the world has ever known". It is a show stopper. His delivery and the grandeur of the Orchestra is spine-tingling. Incredible. He has probably earned a little break so he excuses himself while the stunning Ms Levesque does a medley of songs Michael has hits with for other people. We're Not Making Love Anymore, I Found Someone and Forever where hits for Barbra Streisand, Cher and Kiss respectively. As a long time Kiss fan I would have preferred Bolton to sing Forever himself, but it was still pretty great. He returns to the stage to introduce his saxophone player Michael Lington to play his top ten jazz hit You and I. It's pretty good in a 1980's saxophone player way, and I did wonder if there is a dorm hose in LA somewhere full of tight shiny suit wearing sax men sitting around waiting for Bolton or Sade to announce a tour.

The band starts playing When A Man Loves a Woman and Bolton appears out in the crowd belting out the soul classic only centimetres from the fans, who are all desperately whipping out their camera phones to snap their hero. Back on stage and straight into How Can We Be Lovers. Even I have to grudgingly admit this is a pretty good song, although I'm sure there would be plenty of chaps willing to explain to Michael exactly how you can actually be lovers without being friends, but there is no time for that now. He finishes the set with two songs from 1991 Steel Bars and Time, Love & Tenderness.

There is little doubt he will return (bit obvious when the orchestra doesn't budge), and when he does it's to perform an impressive Go The Distance from Disney's animated Hercules movie. They finish with a powerful version of U2's anthem Pride (In The Name Love). Everybody is back on stage, Orianthi, Kelly and it's sounding great. There are however 60 members of the ASO sitting round doing nothing. While Bolton with his band do sound epic I was longing for the orchestra to kick in and make it the super epic it could have been. The slight under use of the ASO aside, Michael Bolton turned on a fantastically entertaining night and truly deserved the several standing ovations he received throughout the night.

So I think Mr Bolton and I are all cool now. Unless he regrow's the mullet again, then we'll have to re-access.

Ian Bell

SET LIST 19 April 2012

Soul Provider
To Love Somebody
I Said I Loved You
You Don't Know Me
Sweet Home Chicago
They Can't Take That Away From Me
Fly Me To The Moon
That's Life
To Make You Feel My Love
Over The Rainbow
How Am I Supposed to Live Without You
The Prayer
Nessun Dorma
Medley : We're Not Making Love Anymore / I Found Someone / Forever
You & I (Michael Lington)
When A Man Loves A Woman
How Can We Be Lovers
Steel Bars
Time Love & Tenderness

Go The Distance
Pride (In The Name of Love)