Review of 'André Rieu 2017 (London)'

André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra

http://www.andrerieu.com/

André Rieu is a bit of a “love him” or “hate him” performer. My wife and I largely fall into the former category finding him quite nice indeed to listen too. Yeah, sure, it is not “serious” classical music but it is a fun and entertaining show with very few pretences and airs about any of it.

I had booked to see Rieu for his Christmas show for our wedding anniversary on December 20th but due to a sickness in the orchestra he was forced to cancel his concert then and reschedule. This was his postponed show and was doubtless not as well attended with a number of tickets remaining unsold and a number of sections of the arena quite empty. We were seated in one of the blocks along the right side of the auditorium so our view of the stage was quite good with only one of the two large screens slightly obstructed by a set of speakers.

The audience came alive when Rieu entered the auditorium shortly after the 8 pm start time in his typical fashion: Leading his orchestra through the audience to the stage to the music of “Seventy Six Trombones” (M. Wilson). He spent little time in chitchat as he made his way through the rest of the first half's numbers including “Tales from the Vienna Woods”, “Hava Nagila Hava” (particularly fun with the lead clarinet putting on quite an amusing and accomplished performance), and ending with “You'll Never Walk Alone” (R. Rogers). For this concert and, indeed, this tour he had three sopranos and three tenors joining him on stage which performed admirably though occasionally vibrato threatened to overwhelm their performances.

The interval was only about 15 minutes after which the orchestra and Rieu were promptly back on the stage…but the audience was not. This leadg him to express his dissatisfaction at having to wait whistling, at least initially, the theme from “Bridge on the River Kwai” when the orchestra joined in. “Is this common in London?” (to which we all answered, of course “Yes”). After finishing the impromptu “Kwai” piece he simply stood and waited impatiently for the audience members, who seemed to be in no great hurry, to take their seats.

The second half of the performance was much shorter than the first ending with the wonderful performance by a family of drummers from the orchestra performing the Bolero (M. Ravel). At this point the encores began with six or seven numbers before Rieu eventually left the stage close to 10:30 pm to the closing strains of Vera Lynn's “We'll Meet Again”.

I picked up his latest programme which is quite fun. It is a large picture book with very little writing largely consisting of his smiling face as well as of some of the wonderful locations where he performs. I was particularly amused by a section in the middle with pictures of him celebrating with the “queen” her 90th birthday including her mowing the lawn and expressing surprise at a large birthday cake presented by Rieu himself.

It was another entertaining performance by Rieu and the JSO but I can't help feeling like they were sometimes a bit stilted and missing a bit of heart, delivering the same show that they had delivered time and time again. His irritation at the interval also added a somewhat sour note to the evening (not his fault, of course, but it was uncomfortable). I had thought he might mention something about missing the concerts in December at the very least to perhaps tell us if the orchestra member was OK or not however his comments between songs about London were quite limited. I was also disappointed that the concert was not much different than the one we had seen on a cinema screen last summer from Maastricht (see here for my review) with most of the same numbers and, if my memory serves, the same special guests.

The concert itself was very good indeed with all of the expected pieces and a few surprises performed very well and with great gusto. The guest performers were all very accomplished (particularly the very smooth voices of the tenors) and brought quite a degree of depth the music. You have to admit Rieu does make classical music fun for a lot of people who are not necessarily interested in attending a full classical concert but are more than willing to hear him.

All in all, a fun and entertaining evening out with the master of light classical, or more specifically, waltz music. Perhaps the next time we will get to one of his yearly summer concerts in Maastricht rather than hear him while he is on tour with day after day after day of concerts which seems to have effected his performance.

Rating:

Review Date: 2017-03-07



The SSE Arena, Wembley

Location: London (England)

Address: Arena Square, Engineers Way, Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0AA ENGLAND

Public Transport: NRLOGO Wembley Stadium TUBE Wembley Park

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 815 0815

URL: http://www.ssearena.co.uk/

This is quite an attractive new arena to replace the older, atrocious,Wembley Arena and is part of a large redevelopment of the area following the construction of the new Wembley Stadium. Facilities are as you might expect in an arena with just a few small stalls selling food and drink - The place has a small-town arena feel to it. The space is quite large but not gigantic (it is not the O2). Access is very good with a large open plaza to the east that most people use to access the arena with it's direct access to the nearest tube station, Wembley Park.