Michael Bolton’s Symphony Tour was the epitome of cheese… Oooey, gooey, warm, comforting cheese.
As the hush swept over the audience and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) took their places to accompany a living legend, if beloved Aussie conductress Jessica Gethin’s backless power suit of sorts could talk, it would’ve said, “stand by for take off; the Bolton Time Machine is about to leave the station”. It was quite apt then perhaps, that Michael Bolton emerged stage right, grasping a black guitar, to serenade us with an oldie but a goodie, Stand By Me — there wasn’t a chance in hell that this crowd was going anywhere from the moment that signature Bolton rasp left his lips.
Further unlocking Pandora’s box of memories, the next number saw the stage set ablaze in a reddish hue to echo the sentiments of anyone who’s ever ‘loved somebody’. It’s safe to say that ‘you don’t know what it’s like’ to witness the effect of a heartthrob of this magnitude, until you’ve heard Bolton belt this classic out live. Inciting an “I love you, Michael” from the crowd as soon as the song was through, the smooth operator quickly chimed back saying, “What was that?” joking that no matter how many times he’s heard it, it never gets old.
Taking us back 50 years to when this Otis Redding song first made waves, Michael got comfortable for his rendition of (Sittin’ on) The Dock of The Bay. And with the way he effortless hit those high notes, it’s hard to imagine that this crowd pleaser was released in 1987 on his album, The Hunger. He had the crowd swaying and clapping along, especially when he expertly altered the line, ‘...left my home in Georgia; headed for the Auckland Bay’, punctuated by an epic guitar solo.
Treating us to a track perhaps more recently know by its spoof for an Audible commercial Bolton wittily took part in, the singer explained that the record (Said I Loved You But I Lied) took a while to break back in the day because English is a second language in his part of the world. The famous 'panty-dropper' of a tune (complete with echo effect in the chorus) was most definitely not lost in translation tonight. This is loosely based on the sheer number of swooning audience members… but I could be wrong, I became distracted by thoughts of how many babies have been conceived to this song. Moving along.
Heading into the 21st century for a tune from his album Vintage, You Don’t Know Me — the Walker-Arnold masterpiece featured an epic saxophone intro by the amazing Jason Peterson DeLaire and a piano solo that easily transported one from The Civic into a smoke filled lounge perfect for slow dancing with someone special. Following on with something from the same era — That’s Life from his album, Bolton Swings Sinatra — the toe tapper didn’t just have conductress Gethin putting her back into it, it was the perfect piece to showcase just what the APO can do, with the broadway-esque number performed with the pomp and ceremony it deserved.
Switching gears to what is quite likely the most romantic of genres - duets, Michael was joined by Australian songstress Silvie Paladino who last set foot on The Civic stage when she played the lead role Donna in the smash stage hit Mamma Mia! The duo commenced the heartstring tugging and tear jerking with a song written by Bob Dylan and made more famous by Adele - To Make You Feel My Love.
This was old school romance at its cheesy best.
Unable to leave a tender moment alone though, Bolton joked that the next song was the first hit he ever wrote for someone else (How Am I Supposed to Live Without You for Laura Branigan in 1983) and how something amazing happens when you write for other people - food. Jokes aside, it was a pleasure to behold and sing along to a ballad of this significance, with Paladino offering the perfect accompaniment that stood firm but didn’t overshadow Bolton’s tender crooning. This was old school romance at its cheesy best. As was the Motown number Ain’t No Mountain High Enough that the APO clearly enjoyed playing and the emotional, uplifting rendition of David Foster’s The Prayer where Michael did his best Josh Groban impression.
As if there wasn’t already enough name dropping, Bolton spoke of the time he was both honoured and terrified to sing with Luciano Pavarotti and how the next tune (Nessun Dorma) was dedicated to the greatest tenor of all time. It’s fair to say, with the APO and Bolton’s powers combined, it was nothing short of magical, leaving not a dry eye in the house, especially when that last ‘Vincerò!’ showcased the precise control Bolton has on his craft.
Dedicating the next one to the “gracious, generous” Ray Charles, Georgia on My Mind had the audience swaying, captivated by Bolton’s voice that came ‘as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines…’
Returning to perform what will easily go down as one of the most memorable renditions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Paladino’s sweet, angelic sounds easily had the audience wondering if they had in fact died and gone to heaven. This sentiment was most definitely on the minds of the ladies in the front rows when Bolton appeared in casanova mode (complete with glitter tux) to croon — in only the way he knows how — the eagerly anticipated When a Man Loves a Woman.
Intending on ending the night with a bang, the iconic 80s hits that ensued had the audience noticeably transformed into younger versions of themselves, from How Can We Be Lovers to Steel Bars (complete with the cheesy/necessary synchronised dance moves by the three gorgeous back up singers) to the clearly beloved Time, Love and Tenderness and an encore performance of Soul Provider, it’s fair to say that Michael Bolton delivered the cheese and we were all very ‘fondue’ of him.
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