Review: IL Divo at Killruddery House, Bray
A BOY band for the sort of person who thinks Andrew Lloyd Webber represents the apex of European civilisation, Il Divo are surely Simon Cowell's most mercurial creation.
They rolled off the X Factor production line in 2004, touting a mushy array of classical and operatic covers. But, with 26 million albums sold, it's clear Cowell knew what he was doing when he convinced Sony Records to take a punt on this foursome. At a time of uncertainty and decline, they represent the closest thing in the record business to a safe bet.
As is standard for manufactured pop groups, the quartet theoretically inhabit different personas.
There's the outdoorsy American (David Miller); the flirty Frenchman (Sebastien Izambard); the brooding Swiss native (Urs Buhler); and, in what we may call the 'Keith Duffy' role, the jokey Spaniard (Carlos Marin).
Not that there's much to distinguish them on stage, as, clad in identical tuxedos, they make gushing man-love to the Great Babyboomer Songbook, ladling oodles of sonic gloop over standards like Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' and 'Somewhere' from West Side Story.
On a windy night, Il Divo are backed by a full orchestra, which layers the intertwined vocals in lush chocolate box arrangements. But the less than balmy temperatures have caught the tanned four-piece unawares. They complain of the cold -- at one point, Miller goes so far as to empathise with the large attendance for having to endure such testing conditions.
Classical purists will probably be aghast at their drippy reworkings, whilst the decision to deliver 'Nights In White Satin' in Spanish baffles .
For all that, they are impressive singers with genuine chops and palpable charisma. Miller was a rising star in US opera before coming to Cowell's notice; Izambard has a past life as a pop star in France.
Their pristine delivery is often enough to cut through the schmaltzy orchestration. It's just a pity they don't work harder at challenging their audience and themselves.
The country house backdrop is stunning, the performances immaculate, and yet, when the quartet plunge into a karaoke rendering of 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters' the thought occurs that what you are witnessing isn't homage but a rather cheesy kind of sacrilege.