Upon leaving the Prudential Center after an evening with Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra, a feeling of celebration came over me. Strange, I thought, what was the occasion? There was no holiday or birthday to be commemorated, so why this sense of joy? Then I realized, music; that’s what we just celebrated—music. Very simply, very happily, we had just come from a two and a half hour celebration of some of the greatest classical pieces in history, all performed with the Rieu touch, as if he was performing personally, for each and every person in the audience.
“Music is the most important thing in our lives.” Rieu told the audience on several occasions, during one of his many conversations with the crowd. Perhaps that is why such a special feeling could be felt inside the arena, because after every song, he would speak in a very calm, relaxed manner, either explaining why a particular song is important, or giving a little bit of history. More importantly, he reveled in the interaction with fans, and seemed to love poking fun at the audience. Famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) for his punctuality, after the first song, the camera would zoom in on audience members walking to their seats late, and he would talk about them until they realized it by looking up at the big screen. This generated a decent amount of laughter, and he continued to make jokes throughout.
Starting promptly at 7:30 (probably the first time in my life where a concert actually started on time), the music and fun would continue until just after 10:00, save for a 15 minute intermission, when the last of his nine, count ’em, nine encore performances played out. This was the concert that did not want to end; the party that everyone will be talking about for months to come. The fact that he can produce such energy and enthusiasm like he did tonight, on an almost daily basis, is testament to the skill of both he and his orchestra.
Mixing in famous waltzes, with selections from operas, and even pop music from Broadway, this was an evening that every person could find something enjoyable in. His chorus of tenors and sopranos had voices that soared through the arena, lifting the hearts of every person inside, which included a standing ovation after “Nessun Dorma”, and later, “Funiculi, Funicula”, to which everyone was clapping along. The second-to-last song of the official concert was the famous Strauss waltz, “The Blue Danube”. Midway through, the lights came on and people began to dance in the aisles, especially those on the ground floor who had more room. All of this going on with a lot of fake snow on the ground that was dropped by the bucketful on unsuspecting audience members during “The Skater’s Waltz”, which was the fourth song in part one.
There were also plenty of antics from the actual orchestra, and if you did not pay attention, you might have missed them; from some of the brass players drinking from a bottle of whiskey or champagne, to the trombone player head-banging as if he was at a rock concert. Of course, the best of all, was when an anvil was needed for the opening song of the second half, and Rieu told the player he did not look like a blacksmith, so the music of Moulon Rouge began to play, and he stripped down to a sleeveless undershirt. Combined with the fact that Rieu could not go more than a minute without having a smile on his face, and this was as much of a theatrical performance as it was a concert.
All in all, including the encores, he and his orchestra rattled off 27 different songs, led by “Seventy-Six Trombones” at the beginning, when they entered the stage by walking out of the side sections on the ground level, much to the surprise of those sitting there. Out of all of the music, though, perhaps the most touching of all came towards the end of the encores, during an excellent rendition of “America the Beautiful”. Everyone stood and sung along in unison, which was really an amazing thing to be a part of. More emotional tunes followed with “Amazing Grace”, and then a more upbeat “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue”, which had everybody clapping. Rieu continued to place his hand near his ear when asking the audience if they wanted more music. People screamed out “Yes!” and “More!” and he joked around by making shooing motions and telling people they should go home and get to sleep.
This concert was billed as, “An unforgettable evening with Andre Rieu”, and they could not have been more accurate. It was everything that I thought it would be, which many times is not the case after seeing video clips online and on DVD. I was promised by several of his fans who also follow me on Twitter, that this would be an experience to last a lifetime, but I only hope it will last until I get a chance to possibly see him again on his next American tour. Thanks, Andre, for a wonderful evening!