Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tie Me Kanga-Rieu Down, Sport: André Rieu's World Domination Tour

Maestro Rieu: Putting the -al(e) in Australia

In a world where The Wiggles cover U2 songs and Rolf Harris breaks out the wobble board to massacre Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, nothing is sacred.

Even to -- or perhaps especially to -- a man whose per-concert outlay is reputed to be around the three million Euro mark and whose Strad has a bodyguard. (Like the President's attendant who carries the "football" -- the briefcase with the nuclear codes in it -- I picture a secret service type with very dark glasses and a violin case cuffed to his cuffs.) [Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know the football carrier is a uniform, not a Secret Service agent!]

André Rieu is a phenomenon. He's Pavarotti, the Boston Pops, Nigel Kennedy, Liberace and PT Barnum rolled into one. He's a heart-throbbing chart-topping star of the Morning Melodies set. His popularity puts the Three Tenors to shame. (Indeed, the low point of his first Australian concert on Thursday night was a Three Tenors-style rendition of Nessun dorma. It was an abomination. And it scored a mid-set standing ovation... which prompted me to scribble the neologism "abominovation" in my notepad!) [© Chris Boyd, 2008]

While I am inclined to attribute this gent's failure to stand to superior
taste, I must in fairness point out that he arrived in a wheel chair!

Rieu's appeal, surprisingly, extends deep into the serious music listening public. (My father turns out to be a closet fan.) I can't really comment on Rieu's playing; apart from a clean and lyrical solo in Waltzing Matilda, Rieu's principal duty seemed to be blarney and delegation... not unlike Goran Bregovic. But, also like Bregovic, Rieu surrounds himself with extraordinary (and extraordinarily enthusiastic) artists.

Unless you're of a certain age or listen to the midnight-to-dawn shift on talk radio, you might be blithely unaware of Rieu. Well, you might have been until news broke of his plans to bring Austria to Australia... a full-scale replica of the Schönbrunn Palace in fact. Nowadays, you'd have to be a pinball wizard (deaf, dumb and blind) not to know of his existence. Not to know that 100 grand was spent reinforcing the underground carpark at Telstra Dome to make sure that the palace didn't sink into the mud. Not to know that the maestro demands more than a grand for a meet and greet with cashed up fans, post performance.

Note the youthful demographic...

But why see him live? Even from up-close -- I had about ten rows in front of me and close to ten times that number behind me -- you still have to watch the screens to get an idea of the scale of the event. Actually, it's cutely democratic. From the bleachers, in the 99-buck seats, you can see the ballet dancers and 'debutantes'. From the $286 seats, you're below the action and can only see the footwork via the big screens.

When an ostentatious horse-drawn carriage thundered into the stadium, we were torn. Do we watch The Real Thing in the middle distance -- catching the odd glimpse of feathers over heads -- or watch the close-ups on screen?

This photograph captures one of those countless indecisive moments. Do you go for the experience and wait for the DVD release? (Saturday night's performance is a live pay-per-view broadcast with a DVD to follow.)

There were fountains, a roadtrainload of flowers, squads of dancers and skaters, an angel, a princess, Krispy Kreme donuts, you name it...

The Lockett-end Fountain

Finally, the stunt that worked -- the one thing that needed to be experienced live -- was the late entry of as many as 100 bagpipers. (I know, it's unusual of me not to have counted... I can tell you there were 22 chandeliers in The Hypocrite and a line of 24 lights in Batsheva's Max...)

Their long march through the audience was spine-tingling. 3D. You had to be there.

I was there -- at Thursday night's concert -- kinda by accident. I had one of those "what are you doing tonight, Chris?" conversations with Miss Moneypenny, my Editrix. The Herald Sun's music critic is close to full-term, so a marathon concert in a plastic and concrete stadium on a stinking hot night might not be such a good idea! So... three hours later, I was part of the masses flowing over the bridges towards Docklands.

An hour after that -- cop this -- I had the Maestro [MaestRieu?] himself high-fiving me as he stormed his way up the non-VIP aisle. All I could think of was that vintage cartoon violinist line: "Not the hands!" (At least I got his bow hand... so no need to, er, fret!)

I've gotta say, the reception on Thursday night was less than ecstatic. I reckon attendance might have something to do with that. Attendance and the fact that the extra concerts were scheduled before the first concert to go on sale. So... Rieu's Australian debut concert was barely half full. (18,000 out of a possible 30,000.)

The first Melbourne concert to go on sale, tonight's show, promptly sold out. The second, last night's show, all but sold out. When a third Melbourne concert went on sale, it was scheduled for the night before that. Unfortunately, that was nowhere near capacity.

Shame, really. All of Rieu's most rabid fans will be out tonight!

Highlights of Thursday's concert:

The brilliant first song (in German) sung by Rieu's Three Tenors. (It's in the set list as Winckler's Chianti Song, but that doesn't look right to me. Any fans out there? Help me out here!)

A sugar-shock sweet rendition of O mio babbino caro.

Aussie soprano Mirusia's Botany Bay (sans wobble board) and a song from Phantom of the Opera.

Granada, Strauss's Emperor Waltz and Blue Danube, Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary and the Bolero.

Lowlights of Thursday's concert:

Nessun Dorma

All except the ravishing last note of 'I belong to me.'

The Australian medley in its entirety. (We got everything except Hey True Blue... I'm talking theme songs from Bananas in Pyjamas, Burke's Backyard and Neighbours, plus Advance Australia Fair -- one way to get a crowd to its feet I guess -- and 'The Road to Gundagai'. We also got 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport'. Sigh...) (No offence, Rolf, but there's a time and a place!)

My review is scheduled to run in Monday's Herald Sun.

André Rieu's World Stadium Tour. Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Thursday November 13, 2008. Final Melbourne performance tonight. [Also available on pay-per-view through Main Event at 8pm for $24.95. Bookings: 1300 783 833 or]

Then AAMI Stadium, Adelaide, November 18-19. Subiaco Oval, Perth, November 22. ANZ Stadium, Sydney, November 27-29. Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, December 3-4.

USA & Canada in 2009. Dates and cities TBA. ["We are currently planning concert dates. As soon as the concert tickets are officially on sale, it will be announced here."]

UPDATE: Thanks to Sally at André Rieu Fans we now have 2009 North America tour dates.

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Blogger Webmaster Sally said...

Andre Rieu Fans & Friends Around The World, watched the Ausralian concerts with you.
All Fans get excited for other Fans as they see their first concert.
Yes, there is much pagentry, but it is the Music that brings us back.
André began his training on the violin at the age of five, eventually studying at the Conservatoire Royal in Liège and the Conservatorium Maastricht, where his teachers included Jo Juda and Herman Krebbers. From 1974to 1977, he attended the conservatoire in Brussels, where he studied under André Gertler. Andre is very capable on the violin.
I have a schedule of Andre's 2009 North American Tour, in fact we are already buying tickets. :)
Kind Regards, Sally

11:45 AM  
Blogger genevieve said...

All jokes aside - Rieu did come out against the impending closure of the National Academy of Music, which was noice. And made some quite humble remarks to the effect that the young students there have a more intense relationship with their repertoire than he does with his...Hmmm. It's in The Age, round about Tues last week.
Very funny as usual, CB. "Ousevion" captcha. I think I will have to start a blog written in captchas, they are following me around.

3:35 PM  
Blogger dri aquandrian said...

*has to ask*

Which Phantom song?

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A concert without a high visibility of police; no police sniffer dogs; no brawls between rival pensioner groups; no one selling pills at the entrance to the stadium. It does sound rather mundane. Maybe Mr Rieu could hire Johnny Rotten to spit into the crowd from the stage.

A large gathering of people and not one arrest. It must have been a boring concert.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Sally, thanks. I wanted to hear much much more of André's musicianship and that amazing 'fiddle' of his!

I'm a bit dim at this hour of the morn... help me out G&T: ousevion? (Is that a silent haitch?!?)

dri, sorry, I did think of you. She sang 'Wishing you were somehow here again' rather exquisitely. Some of her enunciation was a bit precious, but there was nothing brittle in her voice. (I stood. Not many followed. But, you know, that's just me!) (And, thanks to you, Phantom of the Opera has become a rather pornographic experience for me!!)

And, anon, bless! Bags were searched on the way in. Seriously!

But, yes, it was the happiest big crowd I've been a part of. Real camaraderie. (Must tell my Johnny Rotten gobbing story one day.)

1:43 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Chris ~ Thanks for your comment on "The Harmony Parlor." As you know, I hesitated posting your review on an 'André Fansite', but I really did enjoy reading it, and thought others would too.

I thought as a non 'fan' you were fair, and what I loved was your humor in it. You made me laugh. (Your "André Rieu's World Domination Tour" is what caught my eye) I hoped that fans would see you were objective and that you
did come out of it enjoying the concert.

Sue ~ The Harmony Parlor

3:29 AM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Thanks Sue. (Domestic engineers & scientists always welcome here!) I was meaning to return and post a PS with a big thank-you for your tactful introduction. Much appreciated. :)

And Genevieve, I tracked down that piece in the Age. Very impressed than André took a stand over the withdrawal of funding to the National Academy of Music. Bully for him.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes - so many senior citizens! It seems that critics like to point out that Andre Rieu and the JSO play to mostly senior citizens. Is that a bad thing?

I have previously attend 13 concerts, and I'm here from Canada(my seventh visit) to attend five of the concerts.

I'm surprised that Chris failed to notice the thousands of young people who were in attendance and who were quite obviously enjoying the spectacle. I met some girls and took a few photos. Here's proof that Andre is getting to the younger crowd. Of course if someone has a preconceived notion, they will fail to see what is so obvious.

More of my concert photos and lots more can be found at the two premiere fansites, Harmony
and Aussie Fans For Andre Rieu
Those two sites are the places to go to find current information on the amazing musical organization.

I do agree with one point though. While a lot of people try to get front row seats, I have found that the best seats are from row 15 and back. Even the seats way back up in the stands offer views of the whole castle that one cannot see from the front.

-Al Girard, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

5:28 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Don't be cheeky Al. I might be deaf, but there's nothing wrong with my eyesight! :-)

Seriously, though, in three decades of concert going, this is the oldest audience at a post 11-am concert I've seen in Australia. By about 20 years.

Is that a bad thing?

Of course not. It's an observation, not a criticism!

Thanks for the links.

I confess, I've had AR's version of The Emperor Waltz (and, I confess, Funiculi, Funicula... the horror!) playing on repeat for the past four days. Driving the neighbours MENTAL.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you TOUCHED him?

2:14 AM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

And it didn't cost me a thousand bucks! LOL

4:59 AM  
Anonymous George said...


Your comments are just that, your comments, and if they arent always fair and objective they are just that your comments.
I discovered by chance Andre Rieu 6 months ago and suffering from Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. and all of its rotten side effects ie chemo, radiation etc, his music has done more for me than any cancer counsellor, or any medication, His music has helped me and countless others through bouts of depression, and when I play his DVDs I forget the pain, the way my body is and let my mind drift into a world of peace and serenity, Thats my opinion you may not share it yes his music is shmaltzy but it appeals to a lot of people, and thats my opinion Thank you

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't the soprano's song "I'm Wishing" from "Snow White" the musical? Nothing to do with Phantom.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

I can only speak for Thursday's concert, Anon, but Mirusia was singing one of Christine Daae's songs from Phantom. (I don't actually know the piece you mention, but I do know my Phantom !!)

One thing I've come to realise in the last week, George, is that you Rieu fans are a wise and enlightened lot. Cause or effect, I don't know. Thanks so much for your comment. The gent in the photograph -- the one who arrived by wheel chair -- he, too, is engaged in a battle with cancer. I was told by the woman pushing the chair that he keeps bouncing back.

As for schmaltz... I kinda like the word the Europeans use: schlager. Seems less patronising to me.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see the reaction of Andre Rieu's Australia, I think it is a learning experience not only for Andre and Pierre but for all the avid fans from around the world who follow Andre and support him.

I wish I was there but I will be in Maastricht next year. Chris, you are absolutely right about Andre Rieu Fans they are super intelligent and enlightened. Diffinitely not the stuffy types, I have learned so much from reading the guestbooks on the fan websites. And, Chris if you really want to know Andre watch his fans, you will be fully converted soon. You will learn much about the man, his music, his trails and tribulations to get to where he is today, he takes perseverence to another level. Thank you for your report and your experience, it seems as though you really had a nice time at the concert.


4:41 AM  
Blogger Webmaster Sally said...

Chris, you remind me a bit of myself.
When people ask about the music I like, I tell them sometimes it's great to waltz, but sometimes ya gotta rock n roll.
Nothing wrong with reviewing & film shooting all types of concerts. Wings over America remains one of my favorites. Power went out; Band left the stage, only Paul came back with an acoustic guitar. Sat on the edge of the stage and sang to us. That was way cool. Partied a little with Smokey Robinson too. And I'll not tell anyone my Ricky Nelson story ;) Vince Gill to Cold Play and always Andre Rieu. I like them all.
Andre's 2009 Australian Tour so far..
He'll be in New Zealand too! Andre Rieu will be signing CDs this coming Monday: Andre will be meeting fans and signing copies of Waltzing Matilda at 3pm on Monday at The Warehouse store in the Sylvia Park shopping mall. // Stop by our blog and say hello anytime.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Pot Black said...

I read in the Herald-Sun that you're "mean-spirited and churlish".

The reviewer gets reviewed. :-)

10:26 PM  
Anonymous IJB said...

Some stupid a*hole from Mildura has written in about your Andre Rieu's review saying you were mean-spirited & churlish! What utter bullshit. Agreed with everything you said, I might add, until the end.
You're the professional critic not them!! I've never met a more generous-spirited person ever. And no-one in their right mind could ever call you churlish.
They've probably never heard a good rendition of Nessun Dorma ever. Country hicks!

10:42 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Pot black? As in the kettle calling the pot black? (Or, in this case Pa Kettle! LOL) Very droll.

Oi, IJ, I'm very fond of Mildura. Great writers festival, great food, *seriously* good in fact.

It's funny, Sally, I was thinking about posting a comment about my catholic tastes in music but you've beaten me to it. (And thanks for the link to the 2009 tour dates, much appreciated.)

One of the most thrilling concerts I've ever seen -- years ago -- was a small ensemble (in a big concert hall) playing ancient music on authentic instruments. As if they had made it up while they were playing.

Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI. They're returning to Australia this month. (They might even be here.)

Talking Heads (in 1984?) was one of the great bits of concert 'theatre' (for want of a better word) I've seen...

Music... Man. I'm (still) having a great love affair with it. :P

3:55 AM  
Blogger David Thompson said...

I love the Lockett-end fountain !!!

1:35 AM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

I'm glad someone else appreciated my, er, humour (sic). :P

4:25 PM  

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