When it comes to concerts in sports arena, the medium is most definitely the message. "Get your tickets early," the event promoters seem to be saying. "We could fill the place 10 times over with fans clamoring to get in."
Rock bands have exploited such gargantuan venues for decades. But it took the Three Tenors to make it hip for divas and divos to hit the gridiron. In the past decade, three sopranos, three countertenors, three more sopranos and a baritone and bass (billing themselves as "NTA: No Tenors Allowed") have ridden the coattails of Messrs. Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras to (brief) fame.
Now we have the Irish Tenors, who filled MCI Center on Tuesday night. The formula was numbingly familiar: three singers, crossover material, glitzy arrangements and non-threatening orchestral bonbons to add variety (here provided by Britain's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, ably conducted by Frank McNamara).
Fortunately, the tenors in question are an affable lot who sing handsomely and deliver the most syrupy of ballads with unapologetic dedication.
With the exception of Anthony Kearns's forthright lyric tenor, this is a less operatic ensemble than those previous "Threes" have been. John McDermott's voice is very much in the popular camp, with seductive tone, a limited but effective range and decidedly Top 40 phrasing. Ronan Tynan's sweet, throaty tenor has a lightness best suited to Gilbert and Sullivan or 1920s musicals. Their timbres are well differentiated, but they blend appealingly as a team.
Tuesday's program was a mixed grill of old John McCormack chestnuts, rollicking folk songs and you-can't-keep-us-down anthems. Odes to Ma and Da, to Maggie and Kathleen, to Kilkenny and Killarney tumbled one on top of the other.
Not surprisingly, it was the shamelessly sentimental stuff that worked the audience into a froth. McDermott's rendition of "The Old Man" (father's walking stick in hand) drew audible sniffling from the folks in my set of bleachers. A 1970s Phil Coulter song about the Troubles in Belfast, sung by Tynan, brought the audience to its feet, cheering. Needless to say, the unison encore of "Danny Boy"--The Irish Tenors' "Nessun Dorma"--had the desired cathartic effect.
To make sure no commercial stone was left unturned, the concert opened with a suite of tunes from "Riverdance," and after intermission, out scampered superstar flutist James Galway. Between bits of stand-up blarney about Mozart's fax machine and Mendelssohn's Irish maid, he played pop-classical arrangements of yet more Irish ditties with an offhand virtuosity.
Galway's take-no-prisoners performance of music from "Carmen" may have had no place in an evening of Irish music. But with an arena full of people expecting the greatest show on Earth, who could blame him for throwing in the kitchen sink?