REVIEW: Andre Rieu, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
No matter where he is in the world during his sellout global concert tours, the city that springs into violin superstar Andre Rieu's mind as his head touches the pillow every night is not exotic Paris, Berlin or Vienna, no '¦ it's Newcastle.
Well, at least that’s what the King of Waltz told a packed Metro Radio Arena during the latest leg of his sell-out UK tour with his Johann Strauss Orchestra.
A knowing wink probably gave the game away, but the Dutch musical maestro certainly knows how to work an audience.
When he’s not teasing his adoring fans with his gushing appreciation of their city or buttering them up with cosy anecdotes, unflappable and dapper Rieu is giving them exactly what they want: an evening of romance, dance and enchantment.
Rieu has toured the world with his huge private orchestra for more than 30 years and now he’s bringing the world to Newcastle not just with the music, but the pin-sharp and vividly colourful backdrop scenery which can whisk you from the Austrian Alps to the canals of Venice in an instant.
His 60-piece orchestra too is visually impressive as are the guest performers who file on and off stage to tumultuous applause.
Of course, centre stage at all times is Rieu, his slightly greying main of curls still strong behind the trademark and 300-year-old Stradivarius violin under his chin. He’s the ringmaster for an evening of popular culture of the orchestral kind.
You want high-brow laughs? Cue a xylophone and weird chiming church bell piano thing (it’s known as a Carillon) musical play off. The two instruments are hammered into submission by their players as smoke billows all around.
There’s gimmicks aplenty with not only smoking instruments, but snow and balloons falling from the rafters.
You want opera? Three tenors enter stage left; You want emotion? Bring on the glorious sopranos.
We know Rieu doesn’t dream of Newcastle every night, but on this night he had the audience in his hand, turning this glorified aircraft hanger into the Vienna Opera House.
Rieu punctuated every star turn with sugar-coated banter including calls for world peace (if he had his way every soldier would have his gun replaced with a violin), and a lecture on how music can cure all ills (including Brexit) and he ended the evening with a call to dance. The audience duly obliged.
Rieu called and the audience answered … with hundreds dancing the waltz in the aisles as the strains of Strauss’s Blue Danube echoed around the arena.
Whether you think Rieu is truly the King of Waltz or the King of Schmaltz, doesn’t really matter, for his thousands of fans in the Toon, for one night only Andre Rieu was most definitely the musical King of Newcastle.