He sings, he swings, and the climaxes keep on building
Delicacy of phrasing … Tony Bennett's voice shone brightest on the night's ballads. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Opera House Concert Hall,
TAKE heart, veteran vocalists. At 85, Tony Bennett still has a voice that most singers a quarter of his age would covet. He sang the final encore, Fly Me To The Moon, with no amplification, and if he hardly threatened the Opera House's structural integrity, he respectably filled the room.
The opening Watch What Happens had suggested we were in for an exercise in vocal damage-control, but such fears were swept away by the big finale to the ensuing They All Laughed, and the even bigger conclusion to Maybe This Time. This set up a slightly irritating pattern of relatively subdued and often very short renditions of songs capped by climaxes out of proportion to what had gone before.
Bennett's best singing came on ballads such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Once Upon A Time. Although they did not necessarily escape the grandstanding endings, For Once In My Life, The Best Is Yet To Come and How Do You Keep The Music Playing? showed off his delicacy of phrasing and precision in weighting each word. Smile was affecting and simply exquisite. His quartet was accomplished rather than spellbinding. Gray Sargent stood out with attractive guitar features on But Beautiful and The Shadow Of Your Smile. Bennett's musical director and pianist, Lee Musiker, lacked the jazzy sensibilities of his predecessor, Ralph Sharon, and his bombastic solos suggested he might be the culprit behind the big climaxes.
Such quibbles paled beside the problem of Bennett's daughter, Antonia. She sang six songs to open, and one was enough to expose that her voice was thin and brittle, and she had inherited little of her father's keen musical instincts. She reduced Embraceable You from its innate riches to threadbare rags, and made Sail Away as sweet as marshmallow dipped in white chocolate.
Thankfully, Bennett invited her out to join him on only one song, but even this much was inappropriate when people were paying $200 for a ticket.
Tony Bennett performs tonight and tomorrow.