Angelo Branduardi made magic in Brussels

Angelo Branduardi, the Italian bard recently enchanted audiences with his ethereal performance at the Cirque Royal in Brussels on 18 April 2023. The venue was packed with music lovers and fans eagerly awaiting Branduardi’s magical performance. The man does not perform too often in the Low Countries, so when it occurs, as a fan you have to be there.

Photo (c) Stéphane Risack

The Cirque Royal in Brussels could well have been specially designed for a performance by Branduardi. The building was built in 1878 as a permanent circus theatre, but with the latest renovations that did preserve the style and feel of times long gone, the theatre offers the ultimate staging for Branduardi’s music.

The concert proved to be a showcase of Branduardi’s unique musical style, blending traditional Italian folk music , medieval storytelling, with classical and contemporary elements. The Cirque Royal was the perfect venue for this performance, with its beautiful acoustics and elegant décor that created an intimate and enchanting atmosphere. As the lights dimmed, the audience was transported to another world as Branduardi took the stage, accompanied by a group of talented musicians.

The now 73-year-old Branduardi stood completely alone in front of the curtain, before the performance was to begin. He wanted to explain the programme. There he stood. Older, for sure, but still with his impressive head of hair and his inseparable violin. Small, but with a charisma and personality that would still, without fuss, prove to touch everyone in the room with ease.

The first part of the show would consist of the Suite “Il cammimo del” Anima’ , inspired, Branduardi told us, by the life of the Benedictine mother superior Hildegard von Bingen, and based on her Ordo Virtutum, “Order of Virtues”, a sung drama for female voices with one part for male voice (the devil), all of which would be performed this evening by Branduardi and his band members. From the first note, it was clear that this was going to be an unforgettable experience. The performance of this suite lasted just under three quarters of an hour and showed that Branduardi, despite his advanced age, is still a musician who creates and not just reproduces. The suite had been a very nice lesson for metal bands like Nightwish or others who often fish in the same pond thematically. Branduardi did something else for them when it comes to composition and performance.

The suite, performed to perfection, was received with minutes of thunderous applause. What the audience did not know is that Branduardi had barely begun. Even before there was a short break , Branduardi and his band sat up and took a deep breath. In the dark, he raised his bow and with his violin he set one of his greatest hits “Si piu Fare”. The warmth of his voice and the unique interplay of the vocals, it suffered little to nothing. Instant goosebumps. Fabio Valderin, long the keyboardist with Branduardi managed to put down the orchestral parts and the string arrangement very convincingly, and in Antonello d’ Urso Branduardi has a guitarist who plays the beautiful parts on acoustic and electric guitar exactly as the audience knows them.

“Gulliver” became a highlight of this performance. Aperfect u mplementation that made the audience stand up. Dutchmen and Belgians will recognise the theme as the theme from Bots’ “7 dagen” but the history of this music goes back to 1928. It is a composition of a wedding song by two Breton teenagers. Anyway, Branduardi’s version is nothing but impressive, still. With “La Serei di Numeri”, Branduardi and his band played in gradiose fashion towards the break. The audience certainly did not need a pause , and stood up like a man to give the maestro overwhelming applause and acclaim as if it were Caruso at Milan’s Scala. Branduardi gave a lot, a lot, and the audience felt it, and was grateful for it.

After the short break, there followed another thick hour,full of pure magic. Branduardi made the audience feel that he was there for them, that he was bringing his music to us. Not in honour of himself as a ‘star’. No, Branduardi gathered the audience around him and gave us all an evening to truly never forget. There was a diamond on the stage. In the second part of the concert too, Branduardi took us into his musical universe with narratives based on the life of Francis of Assisie, about the Sultan of Babylon and the prostitute, but also with audience favourites like “La Luna” and “Il done del Cervo”, all music that audiences have carried with them for decades as musical signposts in their lives. Branduardi brought them to life, touching people, icluding your reviewer, to the depths of their hearts. Goosebumps and the occasional swelling tear in the corner of an eye.

The power of music, Branduardi’s authenticity, the magic of his violin. The little man with the big bunch of hair. Everyone felt it in the Cirque Royal. No one excepted. “Alla fiera del ‘est” was sung along from the heart in French and Italian interchangeably, but not before Branduardi had sung it a cappella in Ukrainian, as his statement for peace. With “La Pulce D’aqua” and and “Vanita di Vanita”, Branduardi, together the great band brought the evening to a festive climax. Everyone was dancing and clapping , as we let the music wash over us like a warm wave. Here people felt the magic of music.

One can hope that everyone, even if only once in life, gets to experience such a concert.The audience stood up and Angelo Branduardi received the ovational, minutes-long applause. He had a smile on his lips. It was clear that energy he and his musicians had sent into the hall had been felt back on stage. Branduardi made me, and with me many, many others happy on this night. Pure Magic.

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