Russell Watson, Sheffield City Hall
RUSSELL Watson’s La Voce tour means another full venue and a packed stage too. He brings with him the excellent Arts Symphonic Orchestra, whose string section entirely comprises young women conducted by the eccentric barefooted maestro Richard Emery, plus the eight-strong backing section of the Capital Voices Choir.
It’s pretty impressive for a Salford-born tenor without any classical training. Russell served his apprenticeship singing in working mens clubs but has left that world far behind to become an incredibly success story over the last 12 years. He was one of the first classical artists to make the crossover to popular music but an even more impressive achievement showing the calibre of the man has been his recovery from two life threatening brain tumours to return stronger than ever.
His charismatic yet approachable stage persona, allied to a Lancashire accent, delights his adoring audience as he opens with Somewhere and Ave Maria, dedicated to his late gran. He jokes with fans throughout, even singing happy birthday by request to Denise up in the circle for her 50th.
One of the highlights of a wonderful set comes when the faultless Mr Watson is joined by former Sheffield Uni student Mary-Jess for a Phantom Of The Opera sequence.
Funiculi Funicula and Volare go down a storm, especially when he walks, singing, through the audience. Predictably the notional set closer Nessun Dorma raises the roof before three encores give the crowd their ticket value and then some.