Friday, 12 December 2008

Sarah Brightman: Symphony Tour (2008)

In conjunction with her latest album, Symphony, Sarah Brightman has been touring the world, including, thankfully, our neck of the woods. Unfortunately we missed out the last time she visited, during the Harem tour, and the mistake would not be repeated. Nor would we allow it to pass by without our best efforts at getting the best seats, landing us right beside the runway and able to take the kind of pictures you see through this review. As a fan of "The Angel of Music" it was quite thrilling.

To be sure, she sang the songs she was supposed to. Her backup band seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal during the required selection from Phantom of the Opera, rocking out behind the mirrored filament onto which was projected a backdrop of organ pipes and flying, computer-generated gargoyles. The final set was introduced with Time to Say Goodbye, which has a wonderful habit of implanting in your mind for hours thereafter.

The standout performance, however, came from an unreleased song. Following the intermission, one of the dancers ran on stage in the unmistakable garb of Alice in Wonderland. As a creeping, tinkling music played, the White Rabbit - dressed in the Mall-Goth fashion of plaid bondage trousers and a black hoodie - emerged from a trapdoor in the stage, followed by the Mad Hatter. Together they played flamingo croquet with the White Rabbit's head while Red Riding Hood and the army of playing cards came out. As the music became more elaborate, the dancers descended to clear the way for Brightman, peddling a bicycle through a moving forest projected onto the filament. She was herself fitted out in a red vinyl hood and her bike sported a basket with a red and white kerchief, out of which one expected Toto to peek any minute.

The accompanying song is difficult to describe except to say that it falls well within the tropes of fairy tale Gothic music. Sinister melodies played out against the chime of Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, to which Brightman added an ominously innocent "la la la LA lalaLA lalaLA lalalalala." Betwixt the most chilling rendition of the Russian's refrain since Swan Lake introduced Bela Lugosi to the world, Brightman delivered lyrics in the fashion one would only expect from a Cleopatra Records album of the 1990's.

Some interviews and reviews have cited Symphony as Brightman's "Gothic" theme album. Personally this would seem to stretch the boundaries of her theme albums, as Symphony far more closely resembles the operatic ensembles of something like Eden. Her "Red Riding Hood" song, however, fits the bill perfectly and was one of several fairy tale references in the course of the concert. Earlier on, several songs of her more regular repertoire were performed atop a set recalling the Princess and the Pea.

If it may be said, Brightman appears to be entering a somewhat "darker" phase of her career. Of course, it may be difficult to gauge that considering how The Phantom of the Opera was her breakthrough. Nevertheless, one can see it emerge with her "Gothic" album and her appearance in the film Repo! The Genetic Opera (which is, for all intents and purposes, the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the modern age, trading out Disco Era sexual decadence and showtunes for Biopunk apocalypticism and Industrial music). The motifs of the Symphony tour certainly fit well with the kind of stylish fairy tales that Tim Burton is given to making lately, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the upcoming Alice in Wonderland.

Only two songs from La Luna were performed, much to our chagrin. Admittedly, if we had our choice of concerts, it would have been the one for our favorite album of hers'. To her benefit, she has since overcome the distractingly awkward dancing she exhibited during that tour. A few songs from Harem slipped in as well, in addition to a Christmas set from her Winter Symphony EP. The oft-mentioned mirrored filament allowed for a few occasions of interesting, three-dimensional computer-generated environments, such as the "Red Riding Hood" sequence and a medley of a forest growing around Brightman while she sang What a Wonderful World. All-in-all, it was well worth seeing, especially from our vantage point.

1 comment:

Khairizan Yaacob said...

Thanks for this review, very helpful.
I'm waiting and attending her concert here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 7. Can't wait :)