The Harem World Tour
Concert and DVD/CD Reviews
review © Audrey C and Russell W Elliot 2004
images © Angel Records 2004
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Last updated: 06 November 2004
image © Angel Records 2004
Sarah Brightman's 2004 Harem World Tour, has exceeded all expectations and, like the tours to support Eden and La Luna (review) drew critical acclaim. Her live performance, more akin to a West End or Broadway show incorporates a dance ensemble, backing singers, as well as a rock band and orchestra. A variety of stage effects add further drama and glitz. For further information on the studio album, read our June 2003 Harem review.
In the second installment of the tour, Brightman played a further series of dates. We saw her in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on November 3, 2004. Upon entering the large Wachovia Arena venue, the stage was set and the ambiance began with the large urn of incense burning at the end of a runway. A large, heavy rug tent, with huge tassels encircled the stage.
Sarah's grand entrance in flowing robes was made during "Kama Sutra" and "Cancao do Mar." Her soaring soprano vocals filled the arena and the extravaganza began in earnest. A dancing harem accompanied her on stage. Sarah's costumes were glitzy and those shiny silver thigh-high boots with 4 1/2 inch heels were unlike any seen in a harem!
Her unmistakable voice was just intense and captivating. "Beautiful" was sung on a cantilevered ramp, actually giving the image of a large diving board. The violin solo was exquisite and the production contained a lot of reverb in her vocals. The only drawback in the song came at the end when Sarah lowered her microphone to her side, closed her mouth, and the singing continued. Could it be that Sarah had lip sync problems à la Ashlee Simpson as on Saturday Night Live?
The audience, ranging from young children to senior citizens, seemed knowledgable of her music, and especially appreciated the classical aspects of her musical performance. "It's a Beautiful Day" had Sarah up on a column about fifteen feet above the stage, complete with wind machine blowing her long, flowing cape. Her voice is truly amazing, with her aria solos intertwined in this classical crossover piece. There was tremendous energy in this song, and the accompanying orchestra and band were outstanding throughout the production.
Sarah certainly connected with her audience and she has tremendous stage presence. "Dust in the Wind" had two guitarists accompanying her in this lovely rendition. She has amazing vocal control and continued to set the mood as she slowly sashayed down the runway, smiling warmly and waving to her adoring fans' applause.
Then, she again rose up from the runway on another column far above the stage during "Who Wants to Live Forever." The special effects were a bit over the top, with the wind machine blowing her long, flowing tresses as well as her sheer cape and the streams of fog. The show certainly had the Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque touch.
An instrumental interlude of "Anytime, Anywhere" allowed Sarah another of many costume changes, and the dancing harem set the stage with glowing lanterns. Musicians and backing vocalists rose up from the stage as Sarah entered for "Anytime, Anywhere." She sang with her usual clarity and blew everyone away with her powerful voice.
In "Nella Fantasia," Sarah continued the wow factor with her rich and beautiful singing, captivating the audience. She went up the ramp for "Strangers in Paradise" which she delivered with a delicate and almost haunting tone. The opening strains of "La Luna" brought applause from a knowledgable audience and Sarah's gorgeous, rich vocals filled the arena as she played to the balcony. Just exquisite is the only way to describe her singing as she crescendoed into the finish. A truly explosive performance! As Sarah slowly and methodically ascended the ramp, it swung out towards center stage for her emotional and stunning "Nessun Dorma," winning over every heart and ear in the audience.
During the intermission, various conversations about Sarah's performance indicated that some people had never heard of her until now and they were truly impressed by her powerful and magnificent voice. Others likened the production to a Cher performance, loving the glitz and Broadway-like atmosphere.
Backing vocalist, Violett, began the intro to "No One Like You" and Sarah was suspended above the stage in a feathery costume behind a scrim. The feathery imagery was projected to create a very ethereal atmosphere. The percussion then took over in "Arabian Nights" and another backing vocalist, Shwerta Shetti, opened the song with an authentic Middle Eastern flair, helped by the dancing harem. Sarah reappeared in a seductive lamée gown, once again wooing the audience with her siren voice.
The choreography certainly showcased Sarah's flowing moves, although the ensemble was not overly impressive. The lighting special effects set the mood and had some spectacular moments.
"The War is Over" had Sarah at the piano while Eli Barak was the male vocalist performing in the duet. Timothy John Walberton's exquisite violin solos were outstanding, not only in this song, but throughout the concert. Followed by "Free," there was a lilting touch to Sarah's singing. She has shown tremendous versatility with her varied compositions.
As the harem dancers tossed rose-like petals into the audience, Sarah pranced out to the end of the runway in a glittered costume where a swing awaited her for "What a Wonderful World." It was fabulous as the song peaked when she began to swing out over the audience as hundreds of those rose petals fell from above. There was a smile on everyone's face as they reached out to grab a falling petal.
The flow continued with the lovely "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Then, everyone's favorite, "The Phantom of the Opera Suite" took over, amid the powerful orchestra and band instrumentals. As Sarah made her entrance, a fan who sat directly behind us could not contain herself any longer and began humming aloud the Phantom tune. Dressed in a white beaded gown and veil, Sarah hypnotized the audience with her marvelous recreation of her famous role to standing ovations after "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again."
"Time to Say Goodbye" was exquisitely performed, with her striking vocals and empassioned presentation. Two encores followed, beginning with Bombay Dreams' "The Journey Home" and the Harem album. The big finish was with "A Question of Honour" originally recorded for the 1996 album Fly. Once again suspended by guide wires, Sarah rose to the heights and brought the house down. The performance built substantially after the interlude with the second half of the show being better than the first.
The Harem World Tour live performance has been captured on the Live From Las Vegas CD and DVD, both released by Angel Records. The CD includes the stunning new studio track "Snow On The Sahara." Both products faithfully capture the show, but the DVD's 110 min running time includes the entire live set. See the entire live performance on the DVD Live from Las Vegas, The Harem World Tour (amazon.com) and listen to the majority of the material on the CD Live from Las Vegas (amazon.com).
Although the production quality of these recordings is tremendous, there is nothing like being in the audience and being mesmerized by Sarah's magnetic performance. Sarah Brightman is powerful and captivating artist and, performing on stage for a full two hours, she surely knows how to put on a great show.
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