Wednesday 23 January 2019

CROONER STILL has his magical musical gift


"And now, a message from Frank Sinatra…" Well I'll be damned. Even Ol' Blue Eyes came back for this one. "He's the greatest singer in the world," says Frank of his dear friend, Tony Bennett, in a crackled recording from the vault.

Tony was his man. His cat. And now, our legendary host for the evening. Nice intro. Actually, it's a funny old entrance, the 'Tony Bennett Quartet' warming us up first with a cool and collected, 20-minute jazz session.

When the star attraction finally shuffles on stage, you worry about what might happen next. Come on, the man is 88-years-old. But after 70-plus albums, 17 Grammy Awards and 50 million record sales, Tony is still hungry. He's still interested. He's still got it, basically.

Charm personified, Tony steps forward, clasps his hands and bows his head. And then, he opens his mouth. What comes out is nothing short of magical; a sweet and sublime vocal that has, remarkably, stood the test of time.

He could hold his microphone at his waist (and he does) and still, that beautiful, transcendent instrument of his reaches far and wide.

Don't sweat the big finales - Tony will nail each and every one of them. "Who's got the last laugh now?" he declares on the splendid They All Laughed, breaking into dance and twirling on the spot. The gorgeous Maybe This Time brings the room to a hushed silence.

Later, the elderly New Yorker steps out with his baby and recalls leaving his heart in San Francisco. The results are spellbinding as Tony (looking smart in a crisp, navy suit) works his way through a stupendously-crafted set of dazzling jazz numbers and classic pop standards.

"I'm old fashioned," he sings, "but I don't mind it." We don't mind it either, Tony.


Naturally, there are a lot of covers. Tony gives us timeless love songs (The Way You Look Tonight, Once Upon a Time). He tips his hat to the wonders of NYC ("It was invented by the Irish…"). He professes his love for the theatre in which he stands. And, he breaks our hearts with a Charlie Chaplin cover (Smile).

"I've been singing for 50 years now, ladies and gentlemen," he announces. A pause for reflection. "I'll be honest… 60 years."

Indeed, Tony's got a sense of humour. He recently recorded an album with Lady Gaga (released next week), and tonight, he dedicates The Good Life to the eccentric pop star: "I'd like you to buy the album, because she needs the money."

Again, the voice is golden; warm, powerful and alarmingly effective. For the final song (Fly Me to the Moon), Tony Bennett performs the last verse sans microphone. It's an astonishing feat - enough to make a grown man (or critic) emotional.

Yep, sometimes we need a little old-fashioned, musical enchantment in our lives. Tony's the man, for sure.


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