Superstar singing phenomenon Susan Boyle presented a one-night concert at the Times-Union Center on November 6, 2014. Ms. Boyle has sung for Queen Elizabeth. She has sung for Pope Francis. And now she has sung in Jacksonville, Florida for those of us who were savvy enough and lucky enough to get tickets to this unique musical event.
Before we briefly describe the evening, we know that there are three groups of people who are reading this after-the-fact review. First are those who went to the concert, second, those who wish they had gone to the concert, and third, those who are wondering “What is this all about?”
A bit of history on the 53-year-old Susan Boyle, who appeared as a competitor in “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009 and blew the audience, the judges, and the world away with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables.” Five years later, with more than twenty million albums sold and two Grammy nominations, this shy devout lady has become one of the world’s most in-demand performers.
Now if you are one of the “what is this all about crowd,” please note that written words on a page cannot fully convey the depth of her talent. So, we suggest you pause here, go to YouTube, put Susan Boyle’s name in the search box, and listen to a clip of her first talent show appearance, followed by several other selections.
Back to the concert. The curtain opened on a four-piece band with a three-piece string section. One of Boyle’s back-up singers, the handsome and talented Lance Ellington, warmed up the audience with “Luck be a Lady” from “Guys and Dolls.” Ellington is a well-known United Kingdom performer and has been popular for many years.
Amid a great deal of fanfare, flashing lights, and cheering from the audience, Susan Boyle appeared dressed in an elegant floor-length champagne gown. Her first number of the twenty she sang was “Out Here on My Own,” a song with affecting lyrics, followed by the more familiar “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She was born in Scotland and certainly speaks with a Celtic brogue, but you rarely notice it when she is singing.
Ms. Boyle sang a number of what we consider standards; songs we rarely hear since there are almost no radio stations playing oldies these days.
The crowd seemed pleased to travel back with songs such as “The Winner Takes It All,” “The Impossible Dream,” “Answer Me, Oh My Love,”
“The Way We Were,” and “Unchained Melody.” All were surprises, since the program has a bio of Ms. Boyle, but no song list.
Boyle had two tall blonde shapely bombshells as terrific back-up singers; sorry we don’t know their names as they weren’t listed in the program and were not really introduced.
After a brief intermission, she returned in a vivid blue gown and opened the act with “Oh Happy Day.” She was backed up by two Jacksonville choral groups who were invited to participate by the tour producers. The local singers – thirty or so – were from the Jacksonville Men’s Chorus directed by Jim Moody and The Providence School Concert Choir under Jennifer Hudson. Dressed in red choir robes, they added a lot of zest to the proceedings. Using our ever-present field glasses, which we take to all shows at the TU Center, we did catch sight of two local community theatre performers, Blake Osner and Jonathan Leonard, joyously living it up on stage.
Included in the song selections were songs from Boyle’s new album “Hope.” We especially enjoyed the popular inspirational number “You Raised Me Up.”
As with many concerts, it was designed with an ending that is really not an ending, but rather an opportunity for the audience to cheer and clap and implore the artist to return for an encore. However, once back on stage, she sang only a few beginning notes, then exited; the musicians continued with an animated rendering of the score of “I Dreamed a Dream.” While no explanation was given, we learned afterward that she had been having sore throat problems and in fact had had to cancel an entire show in Ft. Lauderdale two days previously. Additionally, the Jacksonville stop was the final stop on a taxing whirlwind coast-to-coast tour with twenty-one scheduled appearances that began in October. Nonetheless, it was a marvelous concert, and we wish her a speedy recovery.
The scheduling of this sought-after concert by the Artist Series is an example of the tremendous contribution FSCJ makes to the North Florida cultural scene. We thank Susan Boyle and The Artist Series for a fantastic evening of music.