Sarah Brightman in Concert: Dreamchaser World Tour – September 21, 2013

From her early days as a member of the dance troupe Hot Gossip to her success as a classical crossover recording artist, with a brief segue into musical theatre in Cats and Phantom of the Opera, Sarah Brightman is perhaps one of the best known, and best-selling sopranos in the world. As stated in a previous blog, Sarah Brightman is one of my favorite recording artists, and one of the few who tours regularly in the United States; I first discovered her while listening to the Original London cast recording of Phantom of the Opera, and continued to follow her solo recording career. She is credited with creating the classical crossover genre, as her albums have featured songs (both original and covers) that blend classical singing with pop, rock, and world music influences, and sung in various languages. Many of her albums are thematic, with the songs creating an atmosphere that complements the theme – Dive had a watery theme, the moon was a central theme in La Luna and Harem had an Arabian influence. Her latest album, Dreamchaser, continues this trend, as it touches upon space exploration, a very relevant theme for Ms. Brightman, as she has announced her intention to travel to space in 2015.

Sarah Brightman Dreamchaser

I have been fortunate to have seen her in concert several times, and her concerts, much like her albums have been extraordinary and eclectic. The New York stop on the Dreamchaser tour was at Radio City Music Hall, where I had first seen her sing in concert; if this album and accompanying tour is to be her final concert before her trip into space, it is curious and somewhat fitting that my concert going experience has come full circle. Also has stated previously, the American leg of this tour was to have taken place in February, but had been postponed until now, for reasons unexplained – this postponement was actually a bit fortuitous, as it had snowed heavily on the intended date I was to attend her concert. As I am a member of her official fan club, I was able to purchase my ticket during the pre-sale period, which allowed me to obtain a good seat in the orchestra section (left side) at Radio City Music Hall. Upon entering the historic concert venue and being ushered to my seat, I was overwhelmed at the prospect of being back there after so many years, as her concerts were usually held at Madison Square Garden, which is a much larger venue than Radio City Music Hall.

It was apparent that this concert was a more intimate experience than her previous concerts, as there were four musicians on stage and two backup dancers; also new to this concert was the large screen that projected thematic images mainly space or nature-related, as well as the use of different colored spotlights that crisscrossed the stage, which emphasized the ethereal aspect of the Dreamchaser album.

Her concert started off with the first three songs from Dreamchaser – appropriately, as the curtain raised Ms. Brightman appeared in a full length black dress aloft on a platform with an ethereal  blue-white light behind her as she sang “Angel”, which segued to a colorful nebula imagery for “One Day Like This”. A scarlet tinged sunrise accompanied “Glósoli”; the two backup dancers performed as Ms. Brightman reappeared in a white full length dress to sing “Hijo De La Luna” and “La Luna” amid a full moon. Futuristic space images reappeared for “Eperdu” followed by electrifying lightning images (red, blue and purple) which accompanied “It’s A Beautiful Day”; the bright white light returned with Ms. Brightman once again lifted a few feet from the stage for “Ave Maria”. At this point, she introduced tenor Erkan Aki to sing the duet “Canto Della Terra” for which there was water drop images projected behind them; the end of the first act had her singing “Nessun Dorma” on the raised platform with the close up image of a planet behind her.

Dreamchaser Act 1

After the brief intermission (during which I encountered old and new friends who were also in attendance), the second act opened with “Closer” with Ms. Brightman flanked by the two backup dancers, with black and white circles projected on the screens, creating a dizzying effect. The song “Breathe Me” brought back the space theme, with the screens projecting a lone satellite traveling through the universe. The screens were not used for the next quartet of songs, but rather left most the stage in darkness, with only a line of spotlights as the source of light in descending color order: purple and blue for “Figlio Perduto”, green for “Kaze No Toorimichi”, golden-yellow for “Scarborough Fair”, and a brief return to blue for “A Song of India”. This contrast in lighting was inspired, as the screen shone dark red as the pulsating rhythm of “Phantom of the Opera” fill the air (and greeting with much cheering) – this was the only song that harkened back to her musical theatre days, and perhaps this is the first time she did not sing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” (the Phantom section of her concert usually included “Twisted Every Way”, which segued into “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”, followed by “Phantom of the Opera” and initially included “Music of the Night”). Once again, tenor  Erkan Aki reappeared to sing the Phantom’s portion of the duet (as an ardent fan of Phantom of the Opera, I have heard many singers tackle this song, and Mr. Aki was pretty good). The final song was “Time to Say Goodbye”, best known as a duet, but she sang it as a solo with the screens showing red candles floating upside down, to which fireworks were added during the final chorus.

For the encore section, the space motif returned with a star-dotted black sky and an occasional shooting star for “Venus and Mars” with the stars swirling as if we were about to make a jump into hyperspace (I’m also a huge Star Wars fan, and that’s what the imagery looked like to me). Her final song was “A Question of Honor” (and quite possibly my favorite song of hers) – the screens initially showed the classic image of the bottom portion of the earth, which soon changed to relate the early space race between the Americans and Russians, with historical footage from that era. This was a brilliant use of imagery that complemented and brought new meaning to the song, as it was originally the official song for a boxing match, with lyric references to two opposing sides colliding. This was a spectacular end to her concert, which was greeting with cheers, applause and a rousing standing ovation.

Dreamchaser Act 2

Seeing Sarah Brightman in concert is always a visual and audio feast, and the Dreamchaser concert was one worth remembering – while not as elaborate as previous tours, the sparse and intimate atmosphere was suited to the venue and created a unique journey through space, bringing to life Ms. Brightman’s dream of space travel, a dream I hope she fulfills.

One Day Like This – Sarah Brightman Dreamchaser CD signing at Barnes & Noble – April 16, 2013

As stated in a previous blog, in this age of digital downloads and streaming audio, the act of purchasing a physical CD seems downright antiquated; nevertheless, one distinct advantage an actual CD copy has over a digital download is that an artist can sign the CD booklet (or the CD itself). My most recent CD purchase was Dreamchaser, the most recent album by Sarah Brightman, one of my favorite recording artists, and the one singer who tours the United States on a fairly regular basis. I first discovered the wondrous voice that is Sarah Brightman whilst listening to the Original London Cast Recording of Phantom of the Opera, and followed her recording career first through her albums featuring songs from her ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber, and her subsequent solo recordings. I have been fortunate enough to have seen her in concert several times – though for a few of those concerts, I really didn’t actually “see” her, but her voice enveloped each of the venues she sang with great clarity.

Sarah Brightman Dreamchaser

Dreamchaser is her latest album, after a five-year absence (her last non-compilation recording had been A Winter Symphony in 2008), and as the  title implies, it has an outer space theme, as she had announced that she intends to travel to the International Space Station in the near future. The album is quite ethereal and soothing, a bit different from her previous albums. The American leg of the concert tour that was to accompany this new album was to have been last winter, but was postponed (for various reasons) to the fall of this year [the New York stop will be at Radio City Music Hall in September, of which I will be in attendance]. Dreamchaser was released in the US today, and to accompany that, there was a CD signing at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper East Side. The CD signing was just that – it had been announced that there would not be a performance, though the Dreamchaser album was played throughout the store prior to the start of the CD signing.

As my wont, I arrived at the Barnes & Noble early, and a short line had already formed by the time I arrived [prior to the 9AM opening]. Once again, as the doors opened, I made my way to the music section, while a good number of the people who were waiting in line ahead of me inexplicably made their way to the lower level, where the CD signing was to take place; those people eventually made their way back to the upper level to purchase their CDs [once again, limit two per customer] and the (pink) wristband for guaranteed entry. And once again, as I do, I plunked myself down (comfortably) outside the glass doors to wait (and be first in line); as this was the same Barnes & Noble store as my previous visit, the shelves around me were of science fiction, fantasy and mystery novels. And once again, I never got around to reading any of them, as I struck up conversations with fellow Sarah Brightman fans, discussing the merits and differences between her previous albums.

A formal line began to form around 1PM and grew steadily as the time of the CD signing was to commence [at 5PM]; interestingly the line didn’t just form along the side shelves, but snaked through the free-standing shelves in that area. Once the doors opened (around 4:30, I think, I didn’t look at my watch) another interesting deviation occurred – those who were in line first were seated furthest away from the CD signing area (but were assured that they would be the first to get their CDs signed). Ms. Brightman appeared just after 5PM and posed for some press photos before the actual signing took place. As the CD booklet was of glossy stock, she signed the CD itself, personalizing them as she signed; as I was among the first in line, it had been announced that there would not be the opportunity for posed photos with Ms. Brightman (a rule that somehow changed after I had gotten my CD signed). Having learned of this change, I proceeded back into the CD signing room with Jeannie, a fellow Sarah Brightman fan I had met whilst waiting, to get a photo with her (which thankfully I was able to get).

Sarah Brightman at Barnes & Noble

Me and Sarah Brightman

Ms. Brightman was lovely and gracious as always, chatting with the more loquacious fans (I’m quite an introvert and didn’t have the wherewithal to say anything beyond “Thank you”), accepting the gifts that some fans brought her, and happily posed for photos (while seated). She then signed another stack of CDs (of which would be on sale at Barnes & Noble) before I was able to get my photo with her (after which Jeannie and I were ushered out of the room). Not long after we left the store, she emerged again to her car, so it was an added treat to catch a glimpse of her again before she left. Needless to say it was a wonderful experience to have met her in such an intimate space – truly a close encounter with the theatrical kind.

Signed Dreamchaser CD