Zucchero, Sweet as Sugar

Written by Brad

After being high in the Rockies under the evergreens, for the last stop on our summer concert series Donna and I took a Hudson River Line (apologies to Billy Joel). We definitely had a New York state of mind as we headed to the Big Apple’s venerable Beacon Theatre.

Located on the upper west side of Manhattan, the historic Beacon Theatre was nearly as much of a draw as the artist. Seating just under 3,000, it is small enough to offer an intimate setting, making you feel as if you are part of the set. Built in 1929, the old-world landmark offers vintage grandeur and ornate art deco design. The Beacon has a long history of talented acts taking its landmark stage, from Bob Dylan to Tom Petty, the Stones, and the Allman Brothers Band, who graced the famous Beacon stage more than 200 times, their historic last ever concert played there. Yes, this beautiful venue is legendary and worth the trip.

On this night, the historic Beacon was hosting Italian legend Zucchero Fornaciari, known as the father of Italian blues. In his 30-year career, Zucchero has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, but I must admit, I wondered how I would react to this show. Like most Americans, he was an unknown to me until Donna introduced me to his music, and while we listen to Zucchero, I’m not familiar with much of his music, and there is the whole language barrier thing as he sings almost exclusively in his native tongue. My skepticism was short-lived.

From the moment Zucchero (sugar in Italian) stepped onstage in his trademark hat, the entire audience was captivated, singing and dancing. He kicked off the set with the rollicking “Spirito nel buio” and segued into the rocking “Soul Mama”, two songs that I did know. It was apparent in an instant that Zucchero is a consummate entertainer and a gifted musician with a unique energy and range, able to make his songs come alive. His backing band, some of whom have been with him for his entire career, were an amazing group of musicians, crisp and spectacular.

Zucchero’s musical style is hard to describe. While he is an Italian rock legend, there is a little bit of everything blended in his songs: blues, soul, jazz and even some gospel. Midway through his set the crowd was astounded as back-up singer, Oma Jali, joined Zucchero at the front of the stage for “Facile”. The stellar acoustics in the Beacon reverberated as she belted out her lyrics with a passion and energy that had everyone stunned and wanting more.

Later in the set Zucchero used video to sing a duet of “Miserere” with his late friend, Luciano Pavarotti, an unexpected treat. “Il Volo”, a beautiful ballad, followed shortly after. I urge you to find the video of Zucchero performing an acoustic version of the song in an empty Piazza San Marco in Venice. He closed the show with “Senza una Donna” (Without a Woman) another song I was familiar with and a perfect way to close the evening.

Zucchero is a rare talent who far surpassed my expectations. It was an unforgettable night and pure joy being part of the crowd who was there to adore and embrace him. In any language, music can put a smile on your face, start your toes tapping, raise your spirits and fill your heart with unabashed delight. As Donna and I walked down Broadway after the concert on a cool Saturday evening, we could not stop smiling and reliving the amazing evening we had just been part of. Molto bello Zucchero!

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