At last Alfie comes home

Alfie Boe performing
Alfie Boe performing
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THERE is something about Alfie Boe that is hard not to like.

I’m pretty sure it’s the accent. There’s something disarming about interviewing an opera singer and discovering he speaks like your mate from the local boozer.

Famously, Boe, who is at Blackpool’s Opera House for the next two nights (there are still a few tickets remaining for tomorrow’s show), worked at the TVR factory in Bispham, after his parents told him he needed to get a trade under his belt.

He was 19 back then, exactly two decades ago, when singing out loud as he worked on a motor, a customer – who happened to have links to the theatre world – suggested he go for an audition.

Improbable, fairytale stuff, but the rest is history.

Three albums, the voice of Les Miserables, concerts in some of the biggest venues on the planet … Boe, it’s fair to say, has come a long way since he was tweaking exhausts and head gaskets.

“When I started at TVR I didn’t think ‘right, this is it, I’m going to be a mechanic for life’,” he says in trademark Lancastrian drawl as we speak over the phone.

“I had done what I meant to do, get a trade. But I always used to sing in my spare time and there was something, a gut feeling that just told me something else would happen for me and that my life would be different.

“I don’t know what it was. I’m not trying to come up with some fairytale, I just felt like something was going to be different for me. I knew my life wouldn’t be in the garage.”

That said, the last thing he dreamt of was becoming an internationally famous singer.

“Coming from my neck of the woods – Fleetwood – you don’t think you have any chance of becoming a singer really, not even something you can attempt to do,” he admits.

“You feel like it’s out of your reach, like you can’t have a career in music, and like you can’t become a big success. But it’s not impossible, not for anybody who has the determination to have a go.

“You have to go with your gut instinct and go ahead and try it.”

Before his stint at TVR, Boe had a spell working at the Opera House, the venue where he takes centre stage tonight and tomorrow, as a roadie. It was a short-lived stay though.

“I fell asleep during an opera,” he said. “That’s a bit ironic given what I do now, but I was right to nod off – it was a terrible production!”

Boe grew up in what he calls a “crazy” house.

He has nine brothers and sisters and so listened to all sorts of music. “Everyone was into something a bit different so I remember listening to a lot of classical stuff but I also grew up listening to a lot of rock n roll, a lot of prog rock, a lot of blues and funk and jazz, folk and country, all sorts,” he said.

“That was my biggest education, my home life and the music I heard around the house.”

It probably explains why his concerts are so eclectic. As those who go to his gigs will discover, he won’t stick to one genre.

“A lot of people like the classical stuff that I trained to do and they know me for that,“ he said.

“Then a lot of other people – the majority of people I guess – know me from Les Miserable.

“Now there are a few people knowing me for a bit more blues and country stuff and it’s nice to be able to put a bit of everything in there to please everyone.”

“It certainly gives me a broad audience age and genre range so it is quite cool.”

That diversity was reflected in his last album, Storyteller, which featured everything from Paul Simon to the Rolling Stones, John Prine to Wayfaring Stranger, a folk song from the early 1800s.

“There are many different types of music that I love to sing but I am finding at the moment that country music and folk, strong vocal melodies, are the ones that suit my voice,” he added.

“I don’t close the door to anything though, I don’t close the door to music theatre or classical. But I don’t see any difference. There are no barriers.

“There is no difference between, say, classical and country for me.”

Boe’s Blackpool dates will round off his biggest UK tour yet, which includes sell out dates at the Manchester Arena and the Royal Albert Hall.

“I’m delighted to be playing all these famous big venues in the major cities, but I don’t think any will be as lively as Blackpool,” he added.

“All my friends and family still live in the area and they will all be at the gigs, probably shouting stuff out and taking the mickey.

“It could be interesting, but I can’t wait because it will be lovely to be home.”

n To snap up the last few remaining tickets go to www.blackpoollive.com