HUGS AND KISSES AND CHANEL AND SINGING AND OTHER STUFF – A KIWI IN SYDNEY FOR ‘IL DIVO’ 2012

This was my most popular post from my music blog – Night Wants to Forget, so once I closed the site, I have added this here for future readers 🙂

Tuesday February 14 started in good standing. My alarm went off at 5am and I had Senza Parole in my head. It was going to be a long day. I am an author, and a blogger, and a prolific Il Divo reporter. However, firstly I am a mother of four. For eight years I have been in this starring role and I have never left my children behind for anything. I don’t spend time away from them. So when I decided that I was taking a few nights in Sydney alone to listen to a double helping of Il Divo, it was a big step for me. And them. But mostly me.

Kiwis can fly!

Informed by my four young gentlemen that they were fine in the capable hands of their terrific father, I was left on my own at Auckland airport to board a flight. I hadn’t flown alone since the children were born. And without the tears and the fussing and the excitement they always have on a plane, I remembered again just how much I hate to fly. How awful it is to be in the air. And I had sit next to a woman who complained endlessly about how there is not enough hand luggage space. Her carry-on bag was larger than my suitcase. When I pointed that out she got even more annoying. I would like to thank Sony for the new noise-cancelling headphones I had bought only a few weeks earlier, and the plug that can be put into the on-board entertainment system. Next to her, half a season of Two and Half Men with Ashton Kutcher never seemed more appealing (I met him once, he is nice).

The flight took three hours, as it always does to Sydney, but with an added half an hour circling the airport as well. That was added to the half an hour delay in taking off, and it rapidly looked like I would be late to the diva lunch at midday. Patience is not my strongest virtue, so when I had to wait in my seat at the back of the plane for every passenger to get off, I was getting annoyed. Luckily the sexy Australian man at immigration rushed me through and I had to sprint with my heavy suitcase to catch the train into the city – which I missed. It was hot. Australia is. And humid. And the train wasn’t coming.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

 By the time I stepped of the next train at Circular Quay I wasn’t in a great mood. Sure, the view before me was great – the Sydney Harbour bridge and the Opera House right there, but so was rain. Up a hill with my heavy case, and wearing six inch heels, I struggled my way into the Sir Stamford Hotel. I can’t rate it highly enough, but with my frizzy humid-weather hair, panting and red faced, it wasn’t a great way to arrive. My things flung to one side, they shoved me in a taxi to get Square Bar at Rydges a few miles away. My heels couldn’t make that walk, not in the rain for sure.

Sir Stamford on Circular Quay

That was when my mood changed for the trip. Only about 15 minutes late, I strolled in looking a mess and there was the diva group. After years of talking online to these women, it was beyond fantastic to meet in person. You know them instantly! It is a great privilege for this New Zealander (or ‘vowel swallower’ as I was called) to be included in the Aussie divas group. You will not find a better group of women. An afternoon of lunch full of champagne, cake, Divo love and laughs, I was more than ready to see the show. I had not been especially excited to attend, but in the comfort of like-minded ladies, I was ready.

View from the hotel 

Back to my hotel, the room was perfect. And the view! The Opera House was only two minutes by foot away, and the buzz and energy of Sydney was hurrying me along to get organised. One of my true loves, Twitter, was on the desk so I could chat with divas everywhere as I got myself organised and into my blue gown, which I had altered only the night before after losing 7kg leading up to the trip. With four Valentine’s Day gift bags in hand, and my clutch purse armed with my camera, I set off. I walked the short distance along the waterfront to the opera house, which was full of people sightseeing and heading out for after work drinks. There I was, in a full length gown, five inch heels, holding my dress up with my purse one hand, gifts in the other, on the uneven cobbles that make up the paths. I quickly lost count how many men asked me if I was free for Valentine’s Day. They must have been desperate! I guess I looked ready for a date?

Out and about at the Opera House

With my ticket, Row A, Seat 27 (centre!) in hand it was time to wait for the Meet and Greet. Again meeting up with divas arriving for the show, we chatted and laughed as the minutes quickly ticked by. Those of us doing the Valentine’s M&G headed off, to meet Ivan, who is the liaison for the M&G for Il Divo. Running almost half an hour late and with 53 people to tick off his list, the poor man was a bit flustered. Chic was kind enough to help him out and take over, to the amusement of Lois and I, who somehow ended up at the front of the queue, the opposite of our plan. One minute I was enjoying some diva banter and telling the security guys that Aussie men are sexy, next I was being guided into a small dressing room by Ivan. It was dimly lit, decorated with a couch and grand piano and against the wall by a dressing table surrounded by lights was – Il Divo!

I stepped forward, careful not stand on my dress, and shook David’s hand, to be greeted with his warm illuminating smile. I was happy to see it, since he isn’t known for his love for M&G meetings. Next was Carlos (YAY!) and I introduced myself, to which he replied “it’s amazing you came all this way to meet me – us.” Sebastien laughed at Carlos as he took my hand and asked me where I was from, and I mentioned New Zealand, and also shook Urs’ hand, also a warm smile from him. Sebastien put his arm around me as I stood between him and Carlos for the photo, which caught me by surprise as we chatted about Auckland. In my desperation to stay composed in the presence of the men I forgot to take my glasses off for the photo! It was an absolutely awful photograph of me – but the guys looked fantastic. As I went to leave Carlos put his arm around me for a moment, which was great! All those Il Divo videos I have made that he has stolen the link for to put on his FB page were worth it. :D The smell of his favourite Chanel cologne bringing back memories of my memorable 2009 M&G (that is for another time!). All guests were given autographed programme and silver Il Divo picture frame for our M&G photo upon our exit.

Don’t laugh at me! It took a lot of guts to share!

Leaving the gift bags with the lovely Ivan to put in the dressing rooms, I headed out in the backstage cafeteria, where the Il Divo orchestra members, and some of the cast for Turandot that was in the opera theatre next door, were waiting. After more diva chat, and catching up with a couple I sat with at the 2009 tour, we headed to the concert hall with only 10 minutes until the start of the show, and a final chance to chat with divas before were scattered to take our seats. Once in my front row seat, it was obvious all those worries of the stage being very high were all nonsense. I barely had time to talk with the other fans around me and get my camera ready (and tweet my lovely divas the details!) before the lights dimmed.

Sebastien was ready for a big night

The show was nothing like I expected. In 2009 I went to a show and a M&G, and I was starstruck (for lack of a better word). But this was different, it was like seeing four old friends coming out to entertain. The venue was intimate, with everyone able to be encapsulated with the tones of Il Divo. ‘Come What May’ is a perfect song to start with, dramatic and cinematic, setting the tone for the evening very well. Each Divo got their own applause with their first line, before they wandered to the edge of the stage for the big finish. It was that moment when David was only a  few feet from me did I notice his earrings and I pointed them out. He nodded with a huge grin and waved. He was rapturous with the reception they were getting and it was only the first song.

What bowtie?

‘Dov’e L’Amore’ was everything I had dreamed of, powerful and dark and intense. I love Carlos in this song especially and he didn’t disappoint. It was quickly followed by ‘Adagio’ where David comes into his own. After those three songs we easily could have gone home happy. By this time, David had plucked off the bowtie, leaving it to hang around his neck. Next was the delicate ‘Nella Fantasia’, my first time I have heard it live, and it was beautifully done. Then it was ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ and Sebastien stumbled with his first lines. He was right in  front of me, and I could see on his face he didn’t know what he was doing as the moment came and he failed. The guys and the audience took it in good humour, before Carlos carried on with his lines. The song is amazing on the album, but much more luscious and theatrical on stage. The playlist deviated from what as initially put out, and ‘Si Tu Me Amas’ rang out. It is one of my all-time favourites, and I was singing (silently) along, and Carlos kept locking eyes with me while he sang, which was a superb treat.

Si Tu Me Amas

A short break in song produced a golden moment. Sebastien pointed out Renee about five or so rows back, sitting with Urs’ wife. He professed his love to her, tears in his eyes. A bunch of dozens of red roses was produced from a staff member on the side of the stage and given to Renee to big applause. The man loves his family and it is so lovely to see. I think every man in the place (and there were many) were nudged by their wives for not giving the same.  The group broke into ‘Everytime I Look At You’, and this time I got to sing along with Carlos again. Yay! The pace moved along quickly, passing through the perennial favourites ‘Passera’ and ‘Senza Catene’, which seems to still be a very popular song. Then came the reinvigorated ‘My Way’ to complete the first act. While many say they are sick of the song, they have not seen it live on this tour, because it is a riot. The men left the stage exit left to a thunderous applause.

Their Way

After an interval that flew by, and more tweets sent, the second act was already upon us! ‘Senza Parole’ was presented on stage, and it is a shame it never made the DVD, because it is astounding. The sound is potent and demanding, sucking the audience in with its presence. Sebastien has more of a role in the song than on the CD, and the song is all the better for it. I jumped from my seat for a standing ovation at the end, aware I was alone, but I didn’t care. They then launched into ‘Melanconia’ and it is far more amazing than on the CD. The evocative and compelling song lit up the room, matched by the flames that shoot across the backdrop.

Melanconia

The treats were never-ending. It was time for the Latin medley of ‘La Vida Sin Amor’, ‘Ti Amero’, ‘Have you Really Every Loved A Woman’, and ‘Angelina’, David saying it was four for the price of one. These songs go together so well, and ‘Ti Amero’ has been given an injection and made it much more impressive and now concert-worthy. I got up to dance and Sebastien was directly in front of me, and he and Carlos were impressed, dancing with me and giving me winks and kisses. What I didn’t know was that I was dancing alone in front of the 2000 people there. At least that is better than in Auckland, where the 12000 in the arena saw me being crazy in the front row.

The pace then changed to ‘Mama’, Carlos giving his “I am the single one” speech, but with much less cheese than usual. I won’t say he wasn’t firing that night, but he was more subdued than expected. This was followed by the guys sitting to the left of the stage to perform ‘Hallelujah’, Carlos very deep in thought during this song. Then came the all new ‘Llorando’, which I personally love. I have never cared for Rebekah del Rio, and they don’t need her voice at all. This all came after Sebastien made fun of his own accent and sung some ‘wheels on the bus’. While that is fun, after a while it could become a tedious anecdote later in the tour.

The show then moved on, the guys going to the right of the stage to perform “Ven A Mi’, a real tear-jerker. The song is simultaneously elegant, precise, flowing and passionate. David switched it up and sang ‘Stay With Me’ in the first chorus, and it is a dream come true to have heard it live.  The guys then briefly disappeared from moment, Sebastien and Urs coming back out without their jackets, and launched in ‘Regresa A Mi’, which is as beautiful as the day it was released. It was the perfect accompaniment for “Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore’, which had the crowd clapping along and received the biggest applause of all, and never fails to please. Again I was singing along and I could to sing while in eye contact with David which was amazing. But then, as always, the show was at an end, David mentioning in Spanish that he hated doing that part. ‘Somewhere’ was the final song, and it is obvious it is a real favourite of the guys themselves, who enjoyed singing every note to perfection. By then the place was all on their feet in applause as the guys dashed off.

Urs strips (a little)

But we knew to wait for more, clapping and cheering until the foursome appeared again at the top of the stairs in the all-black tuxedos for ‘Time To Say Goodbye’. This is another people say they are tired of, but clearly they have not seen Il Divo sing it live. It has a passion and a heartening warmth to it not experienced on the CD. A full standing ovation was of course given again, and I myself was leaning against stage in applause. I thanked Sebastien, who leant down to me, along with Carlos. A dream come true!

Time To Say Goodbye already?

Of course the show needed a full diva debrief, a large group of us all stopping to discuss the show. The Aussie divas are lovers of music and the whole show was well received, not a dull moment for anyone. A had many strangers come to tell me they saw me dancing, and that was when I realised no one had stood up. Never mind! I had the extra enjoyment of going back to my hotel with three lovely divas and we sipped drinks in the bar and discuss life and Il Divo, which was fantastic! Thank you, ladies!

The man I had waited to see

I wasn’t able to get much of a review in or post many pictures in the Australian Il Divo Fan Club on Facebook, it being the small hours before I went to bed as it was. But, unusually for me, I woke up the next day awake and ready for the day. I strolled the botanical garden, seeing the bats in the trees, and went to the New South Wales Art Gallery, and their magnificent Picasso exhibit in town from Paris. A double treat for me! The afternoon was wiled away shopping and sipping coffee, stopping to buy red roses for the show down by the opera house. I bumped into Urs and Tania as I was leaving my hotel to have a wander around the opera house, such a lovely couple. They were heading to the restaurants at Circular Quay for an early dinner. The day couldn’t have been any better for an outdoor meal, the weather was glorious.

New South Wales Art Gallery

I was in a rush to get ready for the second show, pulling my pink dress and getting my long hair tied up. Me and my five inch silver heels again made the trip down the cobbles, with more success, in time to meet the divas again. This time for the M&G, Ivan was on time, and only 18 people were booked in.  I asked Ivan if that meant more time with the guys, gaining me a quiet nod. I stood back, chatting with another New Zealand couple, managing to get the illustrious last place for the M&G. I stepped into the lovely room again  to gain an ‘oooooooooooh!’ for the guys, raising their arms. “It’s the singer girl!” Sebastien said. Who knew singing through the show would come in handy? I was doing it for myself. “No,” Carlos said stepping forward for a hug, “this is my Caroline.” Night Wants To Forget is well known it seems! I am flattered. I rarely post my opinion on here, I prefer the facts, but I am glad the guys approve of what I have made on screen and in print, Carlos especially. I got about 15 minutes with the guys, chatting about Australia, New Zealand, music (of course!) and Sebastien wanted to know all about my children and why I didn’t bring them all. He told me I am the most amazing mother, and that means a lot to me. And I glad they had got their gift bags the night before and liked the gifts. After Dick took the photo (a FRACTION better than the first night, but still awful), I said goodnight and joined Ivan out in the hallway again, to give him a hug. He could have hurried me and he didn’t :D Another round of programmes, autograph and picture frame!

Not much better than the first!

I had more time to talk with friends before the show started this time. For the second night the set was the same and the emotions were as heightened as the night before. Again I sung though the songs, getting the chance to sing along with prolonged eye contact with each Divo! I had said I wouldn’t do it if annoyed them, and they dismissed that idea. Seb kept pointing over at me while I was singing. Poor Seb, he seemed to be in pain and was coughing all night. When it came to the wonderful ‘My Way’ again, he offered me the microphone to sing which I did. How could I not? Thank goodness you can’t hear me on the video that Erika made.

The feeling of being with old friends was even more prevalent on the second night, and the whole concert atmosphere was one of  relaxation. No one was stupid enough to throw underwear and I am glad for that. Carlos may take it in good humour, but the others hate it, and it does nothing to respect Carlos’ talent. The charmer attitude is a game, the man is totally different to his stage persona. This time, when the Latin medley came around, many more divas got up to dance! Sydney had loosened up! Luckily so had Carlos from tonight before. But it was Sebastien who again stole the limelight with the dance moves, and it was loads of fun for us all. When ‘Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore’ came around the crowd were enthralled and engaged, all on their feet at the end. I jumped up myself for ‘Senza Parole’, ‘Melanconia’, ‘Ven A Mi’ and ‘My Way’ as well. ‘Somewhere’ blew everyone away as the finale, as did the encore of ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ again. At the end I got the chance to thank David when he leaned down to me and he replied “you are VERY welcome”. I am sure I saw tears in his eyes. Nearly everyone had tears on this night to remember.

Brothers

With the guys and the divas all farewelled with great reluctance, I headed back to the hotel and managed to upload a few photos and a quick review. I barely had time to post on the forum when Carlos was there having a read too. I love his enthusiasm for our opinions. I never went to bed at all, needing to check out of the hotel at 4am to get to the airport. A fortifying breakfast of strong coffee and bacon and egg toasted roll was essential to soak up the adrenalin, exhaustion and a few cheeky alcoholic beverages that were all oozing from my body. I got on the plane in my special Valentine’s Day IL Divo t-shirt I got, and still with my makeup on from the night before! Talk about a whirlwind trip! After a bumpy three hours I was back in Auckland, to a round of warm happy hugs.

I know many divas have carried on to Melbourne, Hunter Valley, Brisbane and Perth, but my journey had to stop in Sydney because of work back here. But the people I met are what made this trip so special. The Aussie divas are amazing own in their own right, and Il Divo lovers second. I won’t ever forget any part of Il Divo in Sydney. No matter where in the world I will be living for the next tour, Australia will be my choice to see the guys, and the amazing women who love their music.

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