Dissapointing opening act aside, Collabro were near perfection as they took over Southampton's Mayflower theatre.
After winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2014, classical-crossover group Collabro have gone from strength to strength with three top-20 albums (including their number one debut album Stars), a sell-out worldwide tour, and invitations to perform around the world. Their latest UK tour, which hit Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre on 26th October, only continued this string of successes. Though the opening act was bland, Collabro bought the theatre to life with stunning vocals, a cleverly devised set, a varied set-list, and an array of outstanding guests, including rising opera star Carly Paoli.
The opening act, Philipa Hanna, seemed a promising choice at first. The problem was that her music, apart from the final number of her set-list, was a little bland and repetitive. Her detailed commentary of each song soon became a little much – audience interaction is nice, but a mini-autobiography can become a little overwhelming. The audience did not seem that engaged, and, sadly, Hanna left Collabro with an audience to bring to life.
Luckily, they didn’t find this hard. Starting off with a collection of musical-theatre songs from their third-album Home, they bought the energy of The Mayflower up ten-fold, while still managing to reduce the audience to perfect silence during their rendition of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ from Les Miserables.
The focus was clearly on Collabro’s overwhelmingly impressive vocals. They sounded (and this is certainly different from many stars), as good live as they do recorded. There is clearly no auto-tune used to ‘perfect’ the vocal in the studio; they just really do sound that good.
Collabro then brought on Carly Paoli, an upcoming opera star who has performed with Andrea Bocelli, sung for Pope Francis, and released her debut album, Singing My Dreams, earlier this year. I like being critical, but Paoli was simply perfect. Her angelic voice – especially in the dramatic ‘Time for Mercy’, as well as in her original English-opera tracks – lit up the Mayflower. I went from goosebumps to tears; she was purely majestic. Her duets with Collabro were also perfectly pitched. Their rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’ was hard, near-impossible, to fault.
Collabro also managed to perfectly balance the performance’s light-and-shade. They went seamlessly from slow stripped-back numbers that focused purely on the vocal, including ‘Send in the Clowns’ from A Little Night Music, to dramatic numbers that allowed for a full production. The stand out moment on this front was certainly their jaw-dropping version of Wicked’s ‘Defying Gravity’ which even I thought was too ambitious for Collabro. Yet they pulled it off.
They then brought in some energetic numbers, including a rousing edition of ‘That’s Life’, and ended with a mash-up of old-school dance numbers which, even though their choreography was iffy, showed their diversity and variety. They are not simply a group that performs numbers from musical theatre.
This was then polished off with their first ever original, ‘Lighthouse’. The song, admittedly, is not incredible (and we all noted the ‘Stars’ reference to their original audition), but it was sung with great energy, performed against a back-drop of pictures of the group with fans. It was a nostalgic appreciation that they are here because of people’s support. It was a nice, humbling moment.
The appreciation they have for music is clear, and was epitomised when a school choir joined them on the stage to sing a mashup from The Lion King. The joy on the children’s faces – as well as the interactions between them and the group – created quite an honest and real feel-good atmosphere.
Performing in a theatre was a great choice given the musical theatre nature of much of their set list, and allowed for a real connection between Collabro, Paoli and the audience. It heightened the emotions of many of the tracks and allowed everyone to truly appreciate the vocals on show in a way that I think would have been lost in an arena-sized venue. They were also able to use visuals at the right moment, heightening the drama of certain songs while stripping back to mere black spot-light at other moments.
Overall, Collabro did the job just right! Their outstanding vocals, and a diverse set featuring the outstanding Carly Paoli, meant that by the end of their 2-hour set, the entire crowd of Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre was left thoroughly enriched. Sadly, while Collabro and Paoli deserve the full five-star rating, an unimpressive opening act limits the performance to a four. Still, I’ve never been taken on such a journey in one show: happiness, energy, sadness, dancing, tears, and nostalgia. This was one perfectly comprised emotional and musical roller-coaster.
Collabro’s UK tour continues for the next month, hitting London, Bristol and Edinburgh among over venues.