Zucchero may not be a household name in the United States, but outside of these boarders, he is one of the world's most popular musicians and has been for the last four decades. The Italian blues singer and guitarist has sold out arenas around the world and sold over 40 million records, yet he is still, surprisingly, an unknown here. Zucchero could be considered Italy's Santana, a phenomenal guitarist and songwriter, but also someone with a unique voice. He has currently been on tour in the U.S. supporting his latest record, La Sesión Cubana, a record of Cuban influence. He sings in both Spanish and Italian, and had his landmark concert on Wednesday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Zucchero has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Miles Davis to Bono, Eric Clapton, Pavarotti, B.B. King, Brian Wilson, Sheryl Crow, Jeff Beck and a slew of others. He is a musician's musician. Now, for his special New York City gig, he brought out his long contact list that included Italian rapper Jovanotti, Sting, Sam Moore, Chris Botti, Italian singer Elisa, Mexican singer Fher, and many more. In a gig that was supposed to include Nile Rodgers and Dolores O'Riordan, who seemed to have cancelled before the night, there was still no shortage of star power. The Theater at Madison Square Garden felt like a cross between United Nations and an audience at a World Cup match. While a majority of the intimate room was filled with people of Italian heritage, including myself, it was also filled with many people from Central and South America, various parts of Europe, and of course, North America. It was diversity at its finest but also showcased that music is our universal language and Zucchero was the maestro of our native tongue.
Opening the show promptly 8pm with just a spotlight shining on him, Zucchero was alone on stage with just his guitar performing "Il Suono Della Domenica" and "Alla Fine" before his 11-piece band kicked in and brought the room to life. In a three-hour set that included his massive Italian hits, English songs, and Latin tracks, Zucchero took us around the world without leaving the room. As he brought out guests like Irene, Elisa, Fiorella Mannola, the party was just getting started. Once Fher arrived, it took the show to a new level. Bringing in a much more harder rock with Spanish flair sound to the show, everyone was on their feet. As Fher left the stage, a gospel choir entered to sing backing vocals for most of the evening. Then, Jovanotti arrived to perform his duet "Il Mare," which also included snippets of his song, "New York For Life." As Jovanotti brought a new attitude to the room, Chris Botti arrived to showcase his trumpeting skills. With all of these guests, it would seem that Zucchero would be upstaged by his own friends, however, it was the contrary. He seemed honored and more energized than what would be a regular gig. As Zucchero's international friends showcased why New York is America's biggest melting pot, the legendary Sam Moore of Sam & Dave arrived to sing "You Are So Beautiful" and "Soul Man." As Moore tried to speak Italian with Zucchero, the two reminisced about their time working with Ray Charles which brought the night a touching moment. After Moore left the stage, Zucchero and his band took over again until the end of their first set, which featured Jovanotti arrive again to mash-up Zucchero's "Diavolo In Me," Chic's "Good Times" and Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." After a brief break, Zucchero returned to the stage with his good friend, Sting, who came on to sing his duet, "Muoio Per Te" and his classic Police track, "Every Breath You Take." As the concert's biggest singer may have gotten the loudest cheers, it was still Zucchero's night and the reason we all came together under one sound.