Review of classical act Il Divo in the 3Arena, Dublin
Big-quiffed man-band Il Divo have weathered a fair degree of opprobrium in their ten year history. Assembled by arch-svengali Simon Cowell the multinational quartet's original sin has been to apply pop industry convention to light opera: they are nominally "hunky" - or at least tall and slathered in hair-care products - and perform classical crossover in an unabashedly populist fashion. To purists, they are thus the horsemen of the apocalypse incarnate.
Perhaps the snobs will feel more generous towards the ensemble's latest configuration. Joined by Filipino singer and actress Lea Salonga (star of the original Miss Saigon), on their new tour Il Divo fix their gaze on musical theatre.
Alas, they stay out of the deep end and we are denied the spectacle of seeing them negotiate the gorier numbers from Sweeney Todd or performing Avenue Q's The Internet Is For Porn. Instead, the foursome abide by the tried and tested Don't Cry For Me Argentina from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita and Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific.
As per the group's mission statement, the sold-out concert was light on nuance, heavy on melodrama. Il Divo have two settings: loud and emotive and extra loud and extra emotive. You might not, for instance, consider 'Argentina' a song requiring tremendous subtlety but, as brought to life by Il Divo, it became a terrifying light entertainment steamroller, pummelling you into submission with gale strength drippiness .
Like Spice Girls in dickie bows, we were encouraged to see the four singers as tall-haired cut-outs. There was boy-scout American tenor David; lightly baked Spanish baritone Carlos; quietly spoken Swiss tenor Urs and slyly witty French singer Sebastian (he delivered a neat line about 'conas atá tú' sounding like 'Can I See Your Tattoo' when conveyed in a eurothrash accent).
Because they are, essentially, a boy-band Il Divo have all the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. If you can get past their tendency to overegg, their voices are indeed spectacular - which is to say, tolerate no resistance, blowing you away with their sheer force.
On the other hand, the between tune goofiness can take a little getting used to - if you weren't a devotee, the schticky 'banter' seemed to go on an age (American David, especially, appeared to be starring in a one-man fratparty).
But the music was as lushly sincere as fans will have demanded and it is difficult to imagine those coming in expectation of a night of mildly saccharine light entertainment - presumably the overwhelming majority - going home disappointed. Within the parameters of their oeuvre, Il Divo remain lords of all they survey.