Sol3 Mio

By Kelly Carmichael

Artist:  Sol3 Mio

Date / Venue:  Friday March 14th, Aotea Centre (ASB Theatre), Auckland

Sol3 Mio opened the first of their Auckland concerts to a sold out audience at the Aotea Centre, repeating the same feat the following evening. The concert was homecoming for the trio, one that was a clearly meaningful and at times emotional celebration of exactly how much these three young men have achieved. Hot on the heels of their self-titled debut album released last November, a nation wide tour has had to accommodate extra dates to satisfy Sol3 Mio's rapidly growing number of admirers. A few tickets remain for these, including Auckland's Vector Arena later in March, and you'd be wise to snap them up before the talented trio disappear back overseas and to solo careers.

Right from the start the trio brought their unique blend of impressive talent and playful delivery to the audience. First on to the stage was baritone Moses Mackay, joined soon after by the tenor Amitai Pati, the two looking around for third member, tenor Pene Pati who eventually appears from stage left, surprising the other two who feign annoyance as his antics. Together their voices spun gold, both powerful and moving in perfect balance.

Sol3 Mio have won hearts not only for their talent but also for their desire to demystify the often alienating world of classical opera. While the Auckland crowd was primarily older and probably a core opera-going audience, an impressive effort was made to bridge opera for newcomers. Beginning a selection of classical arias that firmly established their opera credentials, each member took the stage alone, but not before explaining the meaning and story of what he was about to sing. In this section Pene Pati delivered a beautiful version of Che Gelida Manina from Puccini's La Boheme, showing a theatrical presence and poise that immediately stood out. His voice is a powerhouse, but also supple and lithe, making slight work of this difficult aria.

As a group Sol3 Mio have a relaxed, friendly and easy presence on stage. They're generous, inclusive performers, interacting with the audience and displaying a good-natured cheekiness towards each other. Each aria or song is interspersed with fun, the trio telling stories of their life and recent success or playfully ribbing the others. An emotional and heartfelt version of the American folk classic Shenandoah which tells of travel was first recorded before they went to Wales to study, and gave the audience a beautiful harmony at the end. Nella Fantasia, which Pene dedicated to "all those who dream big" followed.

After a short intermission the second half of the concert offered a lighter alternative to the opera-heavy and more serious first hour. Classically trained, but contemporary influenced the trio offered up nostalgic favourites like Yellow Bird and a sultry Blue Bayou that showed off their vivacious sprit and ability to play instruments. Moses Mackay took the lead and played cello for Blue Bayou, but it was really a cover ofHallelujah that showcased his talent. In Mackay's hands, Leonard Cohen's classic song was easily up there with Jeff Buckley's celebrated version. The baritone's rich voice was a stunning fit, showing a sensuality and warmth that made the work his own. Towards the end of the second half a duet of Nessun Dorma by the Pati brother tenors was a highlight. Amitai Pati excelled here, his voice seemed to intensify and increase as the evening went on, building to really knocking it out of the park with this aria.

The atmosphere at a Sole3 Mio concert is a little like being with your funniest, favourite cousins at a family wedding, all kidding around in a light hearted and affectionate way. The three are family - the two Pati brothers and their cousin Moses - and that understanding and intimacy shows. In between songs they play for laughs with a combination of shtick and tongue in cheek slapstick that recalls the early Howard Morrison Quartet. Its fun and familiar, but after two hours grates a little. It feels authentic though and combined with the raw emotion often shown on stage offers a picture of three immensely talented young men who are growing into impressive careers while still being exactly who they are.