U.K. Classical Crossover Artist Alfie Boe Plans to Take the U.S. by Storm
By: Ellis Nassour
It all started on a lark. In 1994, Alfie Boe was in a pub, stepped up to the Karaoke machine and did a scorching rendition of the Presley hit "’Suspicious Minds." The locals almost knocked over their pints. They never saw/heard anyone/anything like Boe. He was crowned champion. Since then, with several Top 10 albums under his belt [including Bring Him Home, which debuted at #1 on Billboard.
Boe’s been busy, racking up achievements: doing a show-stopping performance at last year’s Queens Jubilee [in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth] where he segued from "O Sole Mio" to the Presley hit "It s Now or Never" [its melody bears a great similarity to the Neapolitan classic]; wrote a candid memoir, My Story; won a Tony; starred in his own TV special; and has become a U.K. platinum-selling superstar with a building U.S. audience.
Now, Boe is poised to win more U.S. fans with his new CD, Alfie Boe: Storyteller, which drops here on August 6 [Decca Records; 14 tracks; SRP $15]. On August 15, he’ll make a stop on his U.S. tour to play a sold-out show at Joe’s Pub. Then, there’s his PBS concert, which begins airing August 3.
Storyteller "shows a robust side of Boe" as he performs stripped down renditions of some favorite tunes backed simply by a combo, but with string and brass on select tracks. He sang live, virtually conducting as piped into the mikes.
Produced by Mike Hedges [U2, The Cure], he performs "Angel" by Jimi Hendrix, the beautiful "Angel from Montgomery" by American folk singer John Prine, a new arrangement of Simon & Garfunkel’s timeless classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and pays tribute to the Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary with Jagger and Richards’ "Angie (When will those clouds all disappear?)" and Daniel Magg and Phil Kuhn’s "Shine a Light."
Boe has the ability to cross genres and age groups effortlessly; and Storyteller is certainly eclectic. There’re also the Presley hits "If I Can Dream," by Walter Lee Brown, "I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You" by George Weiss and Hugo & Luigi (sung as a lullaby), and "It’s Now or Never"; Harry Nilsson’s "Everybody’s Talking (At Me)"; Nina Simone’s hit "Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood"; and "Wayfaring Stranger," the well-known early 19th century American spiritual/folk song made famous by Burl Ives and, later, among others, Johnny Cash.
His Storyteller concert was taped at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It features a 19-piece orchestra and includes tracks from the new album, arias, and his signature song "Bring Him Home," which he sang on the West End as Jean Valjean in Les Miz.
Alfie Boe’s story is what dreams are made of. Coming from humble beginnings as a working-class mechanic, he came to opera late. He spent his teen years drumming in bands. He went on to Broadway, cast by director Baz Luhrmann in his 2002 production of Puccini’s La Boheme, for which he won a Tony. Records came in quick succession, with collaborations with Robert Plant, Queen, Alice Cooper, Renée Fleming, and Nick Jonas. Recently, he even contributed music to the soundtrack of the TV smash Downton Abbey.