BWW Reviews: French-Greek Tenor George Perris Makes Sensational New York Debut
George Perris, the hot young Greek-French tenor, was in superb form at the Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center last week. Perris was backed by a 16-piece orchestra in a performance that was ostensibly his New York headlining debut. The concert event was presented by The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans - a charitable organization providing over $100M in educational scholarships for underprivileged, high-potential children. Perris is an International Ambassador for the association.
Perris is touring in support of his first ever English-language release, "Picture This." And if the selections performed at the Allen Room are any indication, the album is sure to be something very special indeed. In concert, Perris is a singer more in the Josh Groban or Michael Bublé style than Andrea Boccelli or Russell Watson, and his soave, velvety tenor voice suits his material well. He is never shy about big emotions and his tone is at once beautiful and thoughtful, but not afraid to be a bit schmaltzy and sentimental.
His enormous facility with languages was on display from the start - he performed in Greek, French, English and Spanish. His self-effacing charm was infectious and it suffused every number he performed. Whether it was a hauntingly beautiful cover of REM's "Everybody Hurts," which had the audience swaying with tear-filled eyes, or an old chestnut like "I Will Wait for You," the English version of Michel Legrand's Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi, from the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Perris proved much more relaxed between songs, bantering with the audience with wit, charm and a devilish smile. The entire evening was video-taped for a future PBS special, and live production has its technical issues. Frequently, between numbers, a makeup artist dashed on stage to touch up Perris. During the pauses he joked and chatted with the audience, displaying a lovely down-to-earth personality that only enhanced his already immensely 'likeable' persona.
Perris is the protégé of the Greek Tenor sensation Mario Frangoulis (who was on hand for the performance) and has recorded with several world-class artists such as international superstar Lara Fabian. Pianist Jim Brickman was also in the audience and before the show stated that Mr. Perris would be preforming with Brickman on his upcoming tour. But in spite of his high-profile colleagues, it's clear that Mr. Perris needs no help to win over an audience. For nearly 90 minutes, Perris held his audience enraptured, employing his soft, pop-operatic tenor voice to breathe life into songs about love, loss and dreams, each of them plaintive, earnest and poetic.
If there was any fault to be found in Perris' performance it was that while his delivery felt sincere, it also felt a bit polished and "adult-contemporary" which gave the evening a slightly processed and safe feeling to it. Perhaps that was necessary because of the film crew that was on hand to capture the performance, but it didn't detract from the evening's success.
Mr. Perris' new album "Picture This," recorded with the City of Prague Symphony Orchestra, will be released this spring. His first two albums, "My New Day" (EMI), and "Perno Anasa" (I Take a Breath) on SonyBMG, featured largely other composers' material. The new release is a far more personal statement, with the artist himself serving as primary songwriter.
Mr. Perris is a bit of a genre-busting artist, not easy to pigeon-hole. He does not fall cleanly into the classical crossover category, nor does he fit the adult-contemporary model. What is undeniable though, is that he is a fresh new voice and an enormous talent whom we want to hear a lot more from.