Tony Bennett Still Knockin' 'Em Dead...At 92
May 13th, 2019
After photographing the first three songs of the show, and before making my way to my seat to review the fantastic, immortal, legendary Tony Bennett show last night at Warren's Packard Music Hall, I made a quick stop at the concession stand to get some much-needed carb relief. I glanced at the menu board and saw a litany of foodstuffs that were more befitting an afternoon out at an Indians game than a Great American Songbook concert: hot dogs, popcorn, soda, and beer. I chuckled as I plopped down a ten spot and picked up a few dogs, a soda, and a bag of popcorn. How fitting, I thought; this type of comfort food perfectly fits the theme of tonight's show.
Tony Bennett, much like baseball, IS Americana at its very best.
After all, every tune he belted out, and I mean belted with the vocal ferocity of a man half his age, has become a classic due, primarily, to his rendition of it. My use of superlatives in the above paragraph could go on, seemingly, forever; this guy was making records twenty-five years before I was born.
And I've just entered my sixth decade of life.
Think about it for a moment; there aren't really any entertainers from his era still with us. Off the top of my head the only other one I can think of is Johnny Mathis. They're the last of a line of artists that hailed from a more innocent time, and his music speaks of the same things that musicians sing about today, but only in a more graceful, respectful attitude. Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn, and Jules Stein wrote about, well, sex and getting busy, but not in the same vernacular as today's in-your-face, there-it-is manner. And it didn't take fourteen writers to do it, either.
Now, understandably, perhaps his tone wasn't what it was, oh, back in the Eisenhower era, but this man is still making music while most folks his age aren't with us any longer. He made his way through a twenty-two song set list, starting out with "Watch What Happens," a tune recently-added to his set. Mr. Bennett took the audience through a seven-decade tour of his career, giving us such memorable highlights as early-set offerings "I Got Rhythm," "I'm Old Fashioned," and "Stepping Out With My Baby." Never known for his subtlety upon a song's denouement, each tune, unfailingly, would build to a crescendo and then would end with a Caruso-like climax, raising his hands in the air, as if to announce the tune's conclusion.
With mid-set offerings such as "Our Love Is Here To Stay" and "Just The Way You Look Tonight," the 1500+ member crowd came to its collective feet on several occasions. Not offering too much banter to the crowd, who would yell "We love you, Tony!" several times throughout the seventy-minute show, Bennett focused on the music. His crackerjack band, a quartet of superb musicians including Lee Musiker on piano, Gray Sargent on guitar, Marshall Wood on bass, and Harold Jones behind the kit, elevated the experience even more. While we're all familiar with the Great American Songbook, having such wonderful backup artists really helped in bringing the old songs to life.
Rounding out the evening with "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" and "Fly Me To The Moon," the crowd departed the Packard having experienced something that may not be around for much longer, a true American legend.
And in a time where everyone is casually deemed a "hero" or legend," being in the presence of a real American legend is about as rare as a tyrannosaurus walking down Euclid Avenue.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley