A guest review from Scolytinae of Ramin Karimloo’s concert in Birmingham on Saturday, October 29, 2011.
What would it take to prise you away from your fireside on a damp and blustery October Saturday evening? For me, it was the prospect of spending “A Night with the Phantom” as the man himself, Ramin Karimloo, stepped out from behind the mask to perform as himself without the aid of character, makeup, costume, sets or an ensemble.
Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is an impressive venue, and its 4 levels were soon almost full. Even the balconies behind the stage were occupied, prompting Ramin to ask if the audience all the way up there could hear him okay.
The evening got off to a good start with the excellent Manchester Concert Orchestra treating us to the lovely overture from South Pacific. Then the star of the evening made his rapturously received entrance singing “Some Enchanted Evening.” From here, the concert spanned a wide variety of songs and, as is the very nature of a “songs from the shows” format, some I enjoyed, some were fabulous, and some not so good. A special mention must go to Capital Voices, whose 4 part harmony rendition of “Moon River” was truly lovely.
As the news that Ramin was going into Les Misérables in November had officially broken, there was a change to the published running order as “Stars” was abandoned in favour of “Bring Him Home.” We were hushed in anticipation as the song began; after all, this is the signature song from the show and the one that every Valjean is judged on. We have all heard Alfie Boe’s beautiful version, so the question was—how would Ramin do? The answer—very well indeed. He has just the right quality to his voice for this quiet, haunting ballad, and it was a lovely performance. The only criticism—that final note went a little astray, but given the proper context and rehearsal time, I feel sure he will be a good Valjean and bring his own intensity to the role. He admitted himself that he has a lot of work to do over the next 4 weeks to get ready, and we all wish him well.
The most popular part of the evening was, perhaps not surprisingly, the selection from The Phantom of the Opera. I felt that this was where guest star Celia Graham really came into her own. The fact that she had been Christine opposite Ramin in both Phantom and Love Never Dies gave the performances a polish and confidence that some of the other numbers lacked, and her beautiful, clear voice filled the auditorium at the end of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
As a shameless plug for his first solo CD, due out in January, a couple of songs were included to showcase the album and to show a completely different side to Ramin. These were enthusiastically received by the large audience.
Ramin closed the show with “’Til I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies, a beautiful ballad that he has most definitely made his own. A rapturous standing ovation brought him back on stage and, after checking with us that we were okay for time to get our trains and buses, he gave us an encore in the shape of the beautiful “Music of the Night.”
Overall it was a really enjoyable evening. Things moved along at a brisk pace with guests breaking up the time on stage nicely and Ramin occasionally sharing an anecdote or story with the audience and, while raising the microphone stand after their appearances, quipping “no-one’s THAT short!”
The orchestra was fantastic, if a little too loud on occasion, meaning we sometimes lost the voices underneath the soaring music. Apparently this wasn’t a problem for my husband who, as a late addition to the proceedings, was sitting out at the side of the auditorium and not with me. Obviously the amps must point straight out from the stage!
However, this certainly didn’t spoil the evening in any way—the man came out from behind the mask and did a great job.
Thank you, Scolytinae, for another great review! (She reviewed Les Mis last month.) We’re looking forward to your impressions of Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables, when the time comes.
YouTube videos from the Birmingham concert: