Sarah Brightman sang Wednesday in UB’s Center for the Arts, and you could say she was out of this world.
Brightman is touring in support of her current project, “Dreamchaser.” It’s a beautiful name, and she lived up to it, commanding center stage in an endless array of sparkling costumes. In arresting light effects, huge planets revolved behind her, and giant snaps of red and blue lightning. Sometimes you would see the Milky Way.
“Dreamchaser” is all about outer space, an obsession of Brightman. In the near future, she is to board a Russian spacecraft that will take her to the International Space Station. Once on the ISS, she will orbit the Earth 16 times daily and intends to become the first professional musician to sing from space. Don’t laugh! That is taken directly from the program.
As she waits to orbit the Earth in space, Brightman is orbiting the Earth’s surface. Her current tour visits five continents and more than 100 concert venues. Word has it that UB is one of the smaller venues. Most are larger halls and arenas.
You could tell her show was designed for big venues, and UB’s show suffered somewhat, at least at first, because of that. I was told that the show involved seven trucks and 150 crew members. It was conceived to play in front of a big crowd, and for a while, though the Center For the Arts was virtually sold out, she seemed kind of distant.
She began with “Angel,” off “Dreamchaser.” Ribbons of blue light, and big, booming accompaniment, billowed around her. “One Day Like This,” another “Dreamchaser” song, followed, with green and red lights swimming this way and that.
You could tell you were listening to the ultimate professional. Her voice, in the mic, was perfectly amplified, and her notes were pure. Throughout the evening she wore a succession of long gowns, of black, white and ivory. They shimmered and sparkled, and she knew how to move with them, her arms perpetually undulating, like a mermaid, or a sorceress.
For the first six or seven songs, the effect was too remote. The songs from “Dreamchaser” just aren’t that good, for one thing, and they don’t do that much to showcase her voice. Brightman seemed blind to the audience, and maybe she was, with all those lights. She approached each song the same way, as a kind of Egyptian/Celtic goddess, alone on a lift in the center of the stage. It seemed things would stay that way.
Happily, they didn’t. The mood picked up when two classical dancers in filmy costumes joined her. These two young women were good, and fun to watch. In “Song to the Moon,” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka,” they lounged indolently at her feet, as a giant moon appeared on the backdrop. Brightman looked like a priestess in a temple.
Not long after that she addressed us, telling us, “Thank you for being here tonight.” Everyone seemed to loosen up.
Highlights followed. Brightman did “It’s a beautiful day,” drawn from Puccini.
It was great to hear “Song of India,” by Rimsky-Korsakov. When was the last time you heard that? The two dancers, whipping around in long filmy sleeves, looked like exotic flowers. “Canto Della Terra,” a song Brightman has sung with Andrea Bocelli, enchanted the crowd. She was joined for this number by a male singer. He, too, was on the remote side, but they made a good team.
The first half of the concert ended with a delightfully overblown “Nessun Dorma.” The second act’s showstopper was the “Sing, My Angel” theme from “The Phantom of the Opera.” Brightman pulled this one off admirably. At 52, she’s not the waif-like girl she was when Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote for her the part of Christine.