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Back Stories | Il Divo Live In Concert

The death of singer Carlos Marin reminded me that I covered a couple of the popera quartet's concerts back in the day — and let me tell you, they were something else.

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Carlos Marin, second from right.

I just read that Carlos Marin, the Latin lover of long-running popera outfit Il Divo, died Sunday at age 53 of complications from COVID. I never met or spoke to him, but I did interview one of his bandmates a couple of times. I even reviewed a couple of their concerts back in the day – and let me tell you, they were shows unlike anything I had seen before or since. Here’s my writeup of a gig on their 2012 Il Divo and Orchestra in Concert tour. RIP, Carlos.

 


Are they not ladies’ men? They are, Il Divo.

Hey, don’t take my word for it. Ask your mom. Or your wife. She and about 6,500 women just like her (many dressed to the nines, with a few accompanied by dutiful husbands and sons) spent the evening at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, being expertly seduced by the multi-cultural popera quartet. And they loved every minute of it.

No wonder. After all, the gentlemen of Il Divo — opera singers Carlos Marín, Urs Bühler and David Miller, along with pop vocalist Sébastien Izambard — clearly know what women want. And after sitting through their latest two-hour, two-act extravaganza, I have deciphered their secrets. And I’m going to share. Here’s what the Divos have that you and I don’t, gents:

They Exude Class

Their current tour — tellingly titled Il Divo and Orchestra in Concert — features a full symphony of strings, horns, percussion and more. What it doesn’t feature: The elaborate production of their 2009 tour, which boasted a massive wraparound stage with runways, a giant post-modern chandelier and elaborate video accompaniment (and which drew 9,000 people to MTS Centre). Size and numbers notwithstanding, this production was still a fairly lavish affair, what with the mobile puzzle-piece video screens, majestic lighting and large staircases at the rear of the stage. But of course, that was all just window dressing for the Divos, who took the stage in complementary tuxedos and later switched to Armani suits. When was the last time you dressed like that?

They Sing Like Angels

Make no mistake, these dudes can wail. Their impressive 21-song set — roughly divided between new selections and repeats from last time around — seamlessly flowed between operatic works, show tunes, Vegas standards and lushly reworked multi-lingual versions of pop tunes from Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart to Roy Orbison’s Crying. On paper, it sounds like a horrible cheesefest. And sure, there was a certain amount of Velveeta on the menu during covers of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game and Leonard Cohen’s overworked Hallelujah. Also, there’s not denying that a lot of their songs follow a fairly standard template: They start out quiet and tender, then slowly build until a lung-busting harmonic crescendo. But surprisingly, they make most of it work most of the time with their perfectly balanced vocal blend: Carlos is the romantic baritone belter; Sébastien and Urs possess creamy tenors; and David handles many of the the breathy, delicate parts. Put it all together, and they’re basically a boy band for grownups. New Kids On The Block for block parents, if you will.

They’re Graceful

Their stage moves seemed languid and casual, but were clearly as meticulously choreographed as a synchronized swim routine: Each singer glided slowly around the stage, relinquishing the spotlight so that every member got a dose of star time, and changing positions so that every women in every part of the audience got some face time with her favourite. Even when things didn’t go quite as planned — David stumbled a bit coming down the stairs during My Way — they made the most of it by playing it for laughs as he examined and kicked the offending step, eventually heading back up to redo his entrance.

They Have Winning Personalities

David is the American, with the spiky hair easygoing charm of the boy next door (“The four of us already have four special ladies in out lives: Our mothers.”) Urs is the Swiss sophisticate, with diamond-cutting cheekbones and an urbane manner (fun fact: He’s actually a metal fan). Sébastien is the good-natured Frenchman and proud papa — he used one of his spotlight moments to sing Frere Jacques and If You’re Happy and You Know It. And then there’s Carlos — “last but certainly most,” as David introduced him. The Latin lover was clearly the crowd favourite. With a twinkle in his eye, his shirt perpetually opened midway down his chest and one Superman kiss curl rakishly hanging over his forehead, he was the one the ladies openly ogled. And he obligingly ogled right back, making eye contact with every single woman he could — along with nodding, grinning, winking, mugging and essentially doing everything he could to convince every female in the house that she was his one true inamorata. And that he would definitely call her after the show.

They’re Sexy — Well, At Least Carlos

“Look at all the ladies here tonight,” Carlos purred early on in the show. “I’m going to stay here forever in Winnipeg.” Later, the 43-year-old Spaniard helpfully pointed out that he’s the only member of the group who’s still single. “What a depressing life I have,” he lamented. “Always surrounded by beautiful ladies.” Naturally, he once again asked all the single ladies to dance for him during the flamenco guitar-accented La Vida Sin Amor. “Then I can see who is most sexy and choose the right one,” he explained. Not surprisingly, several women took him up on it — but not as many as last time around, when their larger stage allowed for more audience interaction. So maybe it wasn’t the biggest Il Divo show this town has seen. And thanks to a few technical glitches with those video screens and lights, it might not have been their best show. But that didn’t bother the ladies. They went home happy after closing renditions of Celine Dion’s Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore (which garnered a standing O), West Side Story’s Somewhere and an encore of Time to Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro). And I doubt anything about the show bothered the men either — especially the husbands who got to finish what Carlos started, if you know what I mean.