Russell Watson | Review
Ulster Hall, Belfast • February ’18
Sharon Clarke / Photos: Tremaine Gregg
Russell Watson is one of Europe’s most successful tenors, who in his career has released singles and numerous albums, both in operatic and pop-style.
Russell started his career singing in working men’s clubs but in 2001 he released his debut album “The Voice”.
Four followed after.
But during 2006 and 2007 Russell battled with a brain tumour that returned twice.. he was told he would never sing his renowned Arias again. He went on to prove them wrong when in November 2010 he released “La Voce” his first album since overcoming the tumour.
After a postponement due to a chest infection in December, Russell was back in Belfast to entertain a packed Ulster Hall.
The atmosphere could only be described as one of awe, anticipation and mass goosebumps.
Russell was accompanied by a string quartet, a classical guitarist, and a classical piano.
For the second half he had a children’s classical choir and sang duets with local artist Margaret Keyes, who was pitch perfect. Margaret Keyes an Opera singer who hails from Derry sang When you believe in memory of her father, the raw powerful passion shown through and in her own right, Margaret is one to watch in the musical arena.
Throughout the show what stood out to me was the distinct lack of mobile phone usage, it’s pretty common now to go to a concert and people take hundreds of photos and videos but somehow with Russell Watson you are there with him in the moment, and it would almost feel like a spoiler to switch on a modern gadget.
His voice dominates not only your attention but your emotions and nostalgia.
His set consisted of Italian opera, pop such as Coldplay and Elton John and a medley of songs from Phantom of the Opera, again accompanied by the wonderful Margaret Keyes.
Listening to him sing really clarified how he obtained the nickname “The Voice”.
His show required no fancy aesthetics, no extravagant lighting or special effects. He was the talent people came to see and he more than delivered.
Russell took his audience on a musical journey from eerie and haunting to upbeat and inspiration.
There was never a moment of the show becoming stagnant, even his musicians entertained the crowd with scores such as #The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.
He interacted with the audience, from getting everyone to sing to walking amongst the crowd to relating funny anecdotes.
He transitioned easily from “Moon River” to “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” to the grandiose “Barcelona” .
His show ended with Russell talking about the tragedy in Manchester and he dedicated the song “Fix You” to all those who lost their lives and to their families.
Together the audience laughed and cried with each number.
At the start of February in the Ulster Hall, Russell Watson not only brought a huge talent and outstanding performance to his audience but also an invocation of raw emotions but also importantly the true meaning of ‘Entertainment’.