Published On: Sun, Oct 29th, 2023
Music | By

Tenor Alfie Boe is ready to rock! | Music | Entertainment

Rock star Alfie Boe

Rock star Alfie Boe (Image: Steve Schofield)

I first had the pleasure of hearing Alfie Boe’s voice in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2012. An excerpt, perhaps, of the tenor’s exhilarating stint as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, at the O2 in London two years before? Or maybe highlights from his memorable 2011 performances of La Bohème and The Mikado at the English National Opera?

Actually, no. Boe was standing tall between Queen guitarist Brian May and Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson. It was the finale of a charity show and Boe was bringing the big guns to the hoary 1970s classic rock anthem Smoke On The Water.

Known to fans as an “operatic” heavy metal singer, Dickinson carolled the first verse with vein-throbbing gusto while the real opera singer spun around and clapped his hands.

When Boe, clad in dark double-denim, snaked toward the mic to roar out his verses, it was like thunder from the mountain. Alice Cooper appeared speechless. Afterwards, I asked Dickinson how it felt sharing the stage with an actual opera singer?

“It was a nightmare,” he said, shaking. “It’s all right heavy metal fans calling me ‘operatic’, but that’s Alfie Boe! Give me a break.”

Boe laughs as I relate the story.

“Oh man, those guys, Bruce, Alice, Brian May – I grew up listening to them scream their lungs out. Standing side by side with them, I was absolutely in awe.”

It might surprise some opera aficionados, but Boe, 50, had dreamed of being a rock star long before the classical world beckoned.

“At the Royal College I’d be walking to class with my headphones on listening to Status Quo and Led Zeppelin,” Alfie recalls.

He certainly looks like a rock star – a tanned and youthful middle-ager with rascally whiskers and longish hair, Alfie is home in his west London apartment following another sold-out UK tour.

“For me, rock’n’roll always came first. My brother had an extensive collection of Elvis records, my mum was a big Roy Orbison fan and I was into Queen and the Rolling Stones.”

Born in Blackpool in 1973, the youngest of nine to an Irish Catholic father and Norwegian mother, Boe was six-years-old when his future brother-in-law introduced him to Queen.

“He played me Bohemian Rhapsody and then said, ‘You can’t be a real Queen fan until you understand what Bohemian Rhapsody is about’.”

He chortles. “Well, I’m 50 years old now, and I’m still trying to figure out what Bohemian Rhapsody is all about.”

A richly-talented lyric tenor lauded by everyone from movie director Baz Luhrman to musical theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh, Boe quickly outgrew the strict confines of the classical world.

He released a series of best-selling albums featuring crossover forays into theatrical showtunes, pop balladry, the Great American songbook, traditional folk and modern country. But never classic rock or, heaven forbid, heavy metal. Until now and the release this weekend of new album, Open Arms – The Symphonic Songbook.

Boe’s homage to his first musical love includes immaculately produced orchestral versions of such classic rock staples as Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer, Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, Bryan Adams’ Summer Of ’69, among others.

As a teenager he combined listening to Pink Floyd with exploring his father’s old Richard Tauber records. “When The Dark Side Of The Moon and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis came into my world it was like, ‘Wow, this stuff is epic and symphonic and glorious’. It was like hearing La Bohème for the first time.”

But then, “my singing happened and people started saying, ‘You have the ability to be a classical singer’ ”.

The story of how the 17-year-old Alfie Boe got his lucky break while working as an apprentice car mechanic who entertained workmates by singing opera arias, is well-worn.

A well-to-do customer with music biz connections suggested he audition for the prestigious light opera company, D’Oyly Carte.

“I lost his card and can’t remember his name,” he sighs. “But I’ve always wanted to thank him because that moment changed my life.”

After D’Oyly Carte he spent four years at the Royal College of Music, followed by admission to the National Opera Studio.

Alfie Boe and Bryan May

Alfie Boe and Bryan May (Image: Getty)

I studied like crazy, crammed it all in, and developed this operatic voice. I then I ended up onstage at the Royal Opera House in Glyndebourne.”

Since his first platinum-selling album Bring Him Home, in 2010, Boe has had a new album in the UK Top 10 every year (pandemic excepted). Three even went to Number 1 as part of the long-running Ball & Boe Together show. Yet his love of rock has never foundered.

“Singers like Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant have this natural ability to sing without much training, focussing more on storytelling.

“Their voices crack and they scream, but that’s not a mistake, that’s emotion.

“That’s where a lot of young classical singers come a cropper. Too many young kids I see sing the notes perfectly, but it’s boring.”

Boring? Let the blustering and harrumphing begin. When Boe confessed on Desert Island Discs he didn’t often go to the opera, “because I find it boring,” the backlash was immediate.

“I’d just done a run at ENO and the following day in the papers they asked a director I’d worked with about my ‘boring’ remark, and he said, ‘Alfie Boe? Oh yes, I’ve heard of him. I knew he wasn’t one of us’.” Classical music snobs have been the scourge of his career, he shrugs.

“It’s a shame that purists can’t see beyond a certain genre. My concerts involve operatic arias, Neapolitan folk songs, musical theatre songs and now some rock’n’roll.”

How about the sex and drugs part of the rock lifestyle – much of that in the classical world?

“There were certainly some wild parties,” he cheerfully acknowledges. “When you have a long opera and you get a rare night off, that’s when the beers flow and the fun starts.”

He admits the showbiz lifestyle was part of the reason behind his “very amicable” split in 2020 from his American wife Sarah. Although his much-publicized liaison with Liv Knight-Butler, a “vlogger” nearly 20 years his junior can’t have helped much either.

Experience the Express like never before
  • Advert-free experience without interruptions.
  • Rocket-fast speedy loading pages.
  • Exclusive & Unlimited access to all our content.

Boe had been married for 16 years; the couple have a daughter Grace and son Alfred Robert.

“Yeah, the job obviously did have an effect on my marriage, but there must’ve been issues there already. She was a great mother and a wonderful wife. But I don’t like the word regret.

“You make mistakes in life and hopefully you learn from them.”

As well as his stunning new album, Boe has recently published his second autobiography – Face The Music: My Story.

His cover of Foreigner’s classic power-ballad, I Want To Know What Love Is – the standout on Open Arms, first performed in 2012 at the Albert Hall – pretty much sums up where he is at now, he says.

“The last chapter is called Now. It’s about taking it day-by-day, minute-by-minute, second-by-second, dealing with it and breathing through it all.” Boe is so busy he finds it hard “to stop and slow down and take time for myself”. He takes ice baths, he explains, “to help slow my breathing down and be still with myself and meditate.”

Best of all, he likes freshwater swimming.

“I go to the Lakes occasionally with my brother and we dive straight in.

“It’s about getting with nature, and I like the surroundings, the mountains and the getting out into nature. It can teach you so much.”

Currently single, he’s about to exchange his London bachelor pad for a Buckinghamshire country house. Not because that’s what rock stars do in middle-age, he smiles.

“But because I’m now in a place where I know I can cope – I can embrace a relationship with somebody and make it work despite my job.”

Rock on, Alfie.

  • Open Arms – The Symphonic Songbook by Alfie Boe is out now.

Source link

Most Popular News