Concert Review: Russell Watson
Russell Watson. Picture: Simon Fowler.

Defying doctor's orders, the man known internationally as "La Voce", Russell Watson, wowed the faithful crowd at Perth's Burswood Theatre.

Despite being told by medics that he should rest following a bad chest and throat infection, Watson blasted on to the stage with the classic Somewhere, from his first album, The Voice, showing no sign of weakness, and held the audience rapt from the very first note right through to the last phrase of his fourth encore.

Which was handy because ticketholders had waited quite some time for him to arrive. The show was originally slated for November last year, but a scheduling error left fans with an anxious wait to see the Salford-born tenor.

The visit to Perth marked the last leg of his Australian tour and came six years after Watson's last trip Down Under. Why the long gap between journeys? Watson was recovering from not one but two brain tumours.

Far from shrinking into obscurity and feeling sorry for himself as many others might, Watson has picked himself up and credits his long battle against illness with improving his voice.

Sipping from a teacup full of honey, lemon and ginger (charmingly described as his mother's recipe), Watson went on to sing such crowd-pleasers as Panis Angelicus, San Francisco, Volare and Funiculi Funicula during the first half of the performance, between songs chatting to his fans in the first few rows.

The second half of the show was kicked off by conductor Robert D.C. Emery and the Australian Metropolitan Orchestra with a medley of songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera with a surprise guest joining Watson on stage to belt out the ever-popular All I Ask of You.

Greta Bradman was initially greeted by the audience with suspicion, However, as soon as she revealed she was cricketing legend Don Bradman's granddaughter, they soon warmed to her and her beautiful renditions of Webber's Pie Jesu and one of Gershwin's most popular pieces, Summertime.

But she couldn't knock Watson out of the spotlight for long, and the man of the moment returned to the stage with yet more of his pitch-perfect offerings, including You'll Never Walk Alone and Nessun Dorma, ably assisted by the St George's Cathedral Consort choir.

But the undeniable highlight of the show was Watson's third encore and the most celebrated song from the musical Les Miserables, Bring Him Home. There was not a dry eye in the house as he finished that last perfect note and humbly accepted his fifth standing ovation, bowed out of the theatre and promised not to make Australian fans wait so long next time.

The West Australian

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