Tony Bennett (Fraze Pavilion) (review)

Tony Bennett – Fraze Pavilion – 8/25/13 (concert review)

Phenomenal.  Spine-chillingly good.  Not the kind of accolades usually lauded on an artist well into his seventh decade of performing.  Yet, Tony Bennett is no ordinary singer – he’s a national treasure.  The last significant link from the pre-rock era – the Golden Age of Song, Bennett, now 87, continues to amaze.

The evening began with Bennett’s daughter, Antonia, a fantastic singer in her own right, sporting long red hair, and a pair of sunglasses to shield the setting Ohio sun.  Her six-song set drew from the same fertile ground as her father’s.  What sets her apart is her keen ability to make a song swing, something certainly perfected watching her dad from the wings.  Especially good was her gorgeous take on “Embraceable You.”

As Antonia exited, a vintage recording of Frank Sinatra played, where he gushed that “Tony Bennett is the greatest singer in the world.”  And, right on cue, came the legendary performer out on the stage.

As the singer slowly made his way to the front, he was grinning ear to ear – something he never stopped doing the entire time.  Clad in his signature yellow jacket, shirt and tie, he opened with “Watch What Happens,” belting out phrases with an uncanny ease.  Backed by a quartet of guitar, piano, bass & drums, featuring Harold Jones, who was Count Basie’s drummer of choice.  What you realize is that this man has been given a rare gift.  Not merely going through the motions like so many older artists do, Bennett still has that unbelievable power in his voice

Most of the songs were ballads, but Bennett showed he could still swing with the jumping “I Got Rhythm. “  He joked that he and Rosemary Clooney were the original American Idols (on early black & white television) before launching into his surprise hit cover of Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart.”  He brought back his daughter for a tender reading of “Old Friends,” their voices interlocking perfectly.

Sometimes, he only sang a verse and chorus, as in “Just in Time” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – the latter featured a very spirited performance.  Yet, he also showed incredible restraint – you could hear the crickets chirping over the extremely quiet “The Shadow of Your Smile.”  It is so difficult to whisper in key, yet Bennett does it with little effort.  “The Way You Look Tonight” was stunning in its sparse voice/guitar arrangement.

The fact that before one song he told a story about how Bob Hope came up with the name “Tony Bennett,” and then before the next, mentioned a forthcoming duets album with Lady Gaga, shows the amount of living that this incredible man has done – and that he’s not afraid to sing with anyone.

No Bennett show would be complete without “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which he still sings with a rare passion, especially for a man who’s called New York his home almost his entire life.  Appropriately, the evening ended with the Charlie Chaplin tear-jerker “Smile,” and then “When You’re Smiling.”

Bennett himself probably only played for 70 minutes – a gentlemen behind me huffed this fact as we were leaving.  Yet, Bennett never sat down, and only used a water glass as a prop during “One For My Baby.”  Ironically, two guys in front of us, easily 20 years Bennett’s junior, had to get up to use the restroom twice in that same time period.

It is obvious when an artist is doing something he loves, and Tony Bennett loves making people happy.  Everyone should see this amazing performer while you still can.  Yet, judging by the vigor that he threw into this concert, he’s shown no sign of slowing down.  –Tony Peters