You may recall Sergey Lazarev as the wall-climbing, big voiced, banger-of-a-song, Russian entrant from Eurovision 2016. The guy who took the most televotes from viewers.
Lazarev is a Russian star. UK music mogul Simon Napier-Bell, Wham!’s former manager, set about forming a 21st century Russian version of Wham! with Universal Music. Smash!! was born in 2000, featuring Vlad Topalov and Sergey Lazarev, graduates of Russian child group, Neposedy. You might be familiar with their Neposedy co-graduates, t.A.T.u..
Launching as a solo artist in 2005, Lazarev has released four studio albums. His most recent release, the compilation ‘The Best’, is the subject of his current tour. I attempted to count the number of shows he has accomplished under ‘The Best’ banner, and Berlin is date number 146 (I may be wrong, but nevertheless it’s a hell of a lot!) and one of six shows in Germany. This is the first time Lazarev has toured in Europe.
The audience is mainly ex-pats, however Berlin becomes a cross-European extravaganza for the evening, with many fans flying in from multiple countries to take advantage of a visa-free Lazarev gig.
Lazarev’s band enters the stage, building up anticipation for his entrance. There is a huge multi-media screen at the back of the stage. There is an array of lighting. This is high-production. Lazarev appears centre-stage through an open door, aloft a set of stairs. He is dressed in all white, futuristic, intergalactic-like. Show-time. The crowd goes crazy to opener, ‘Breaking Away’.
Upbeat numbers ‘The Flyer’ and ‘Shattered Dreams’ (yes, a cover of the 80s hit by Johnny Hates Jazz) are followed by ‘Naydi Menya’, a song which Lazarev reworks from the studio version, bringing the tempo right down and presenting a stunning, sensual (he and his dancers getting very close in a spellbinding way!) and visually enchanting – think cosmic, stars – universe.
The first of many thoroughly-thought out and wonderfully designed costume changes comes in the form of ‘Stumblin’’, a stomper, where the crowd with its vigorous seat-dancing matches the energy of Lazarev and his team of four, extremely gifted, dancers. This is a fully seated concert and I was told that Russian seated concerts are treated like the theatre; no-standing out of politeness to other audience members.
A few more bouncy numbers follow and then the pace drops with the introduction of Russian language ballads, ‘Bienie Serdca’ and ‘Slezy V Moem Serdce’, and a section dedicated to three Smash!! tracks. These were performed in a captivating, mesmerising and emotional style. During these slower songs Lazarev’s acting experience showed; he is a regular in Moscow theatre and the audience could have been forgiven for thinking they were in the West End.
Lazarev turns ‘Dazhe Esli Ty Uydesh’ into an audience participation exercise. His playful personality is highlighted by teasing English-speaking audience members to “Learn Russian”, to which said fans respond by belting back the lyrics.
For a pop singer, Lazarev’s voice is powerful. The slow songs exemplify this, with him going all out to hit every high note and even ad libbing extra. Just because he can.
TV or Radio showcases more of Lazarev’s playful side. His alter-ego, Zhorik, a loveable geek, skips onto the stage, his two male dancers dressed identically to Zhorik and his two female dancers pirouetting on stage in 50s rockabilly dress, with TVs as heads! Kitsch at its finest.
Crowd favourites ‘Eto Vse Ona’, ‘7 Cifr’ and current single, ‘Lucky Stranger’, follow, once again building the crowd into a frenzy. The high-powered energy of these numbers is infectious, lifting some audience members from their seats and into dance! The choreography, once again, is slick.
Eurovision entry ‘You Are The Only One’ beings with a moving montage of footage from the event. By this point EVERYONE is on their feet for a final dance. The song builds, explodes and the audience has left their seating area and moved forwards to the front of the stage for the goodbye. It is Russian tradition to gift the performer flowers and Lazarev is so in abundance that he walks precariously off stage with them heaped on his shoulder.
The perfect pop concert.
‘Lucky Stranger’ is out now. A new album is due in autumn 2017. ‘The Best’ tour continues and a new show is forthcoming, to tour Germany again, in 2018.
Guest writer: Sophie Sasimowicz