Review: Andre Rieu, SSE Hydro

Catriona Stewart's verdict: four stars

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NO friend of subtlety and absolutely no bedfellow of modesty, Andre Rieu, one of the world's best selling artists, strikes fear into the hearts of classical music critics. By now, they should realise his shows are not designed for them, and stay home.

Rieu's particular brand of classical is snappy, brash and adds a liberal dose of schmaltz to the waltz. The men in his Johann Strauss orchestra are in dickie bows and the women in ball gowns lavish enough to make Disney princesses blush for being underdressed. Surely an extra tour bus is needed just for the crinolines. The orchestra is set against a video wall of ever changing, clangingly obvious scenes and the stage is decked with poinsettia and Christmas trees.

To a packed Hydro, the band plays a pleasant Strauss's Roses from the South and This Land is Mine. We have a gentle singalong to White Cliffs of Dover followed by a VT message from Dame Vera Lynn herself. There is a very sweet You'll Never Walk Alone. The Gold and Silver Waltz and the Blue Danube Waltz go down a treat, as do Rieu's unabashedly sentimental soliloquys between songs.

There are some genuinely baffling moments. After the interval the women come on dressed as Little Dutch Girls and do a clog dance up and down the front of the stage. Their faces suggest years of classical training did not prepare them for this. The men then appear with vodka and beer for a wee bevvy while Rieu has his photo taken by Polaroid camera. He then frisbees the snapshots into the front rows; there are scraps between women determined to secure a memento.

There are also some genuinely impressive moments: a rendition of Puccini's O mio babbino caro and South African soprano Kimmy Skota's My African Dream.

The orchestra is a patchwork of personalities - the clarinettist seems particularly exuberant - and a pleasure to watch. The standing ovations have the audience up and down like jackrabbits.

The audience is battered by an overwhelmingly robust O Fortuna before a waltz medley and La Traviata's The Drinking Song play out the night while several hundred bright balloons rain down on the auditorium. It all ends on Amazing Grace, with our jolly clarinettist on the bagpipes. It would probably be beyond Strauss's ken, were he still around to see it, but it's a hoot and no mistake. You'd have to be the most mirthless snob not to sit back and embrace it.

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