Timeless tunes from Tony Bennett

May 22, 2010, San Fran­cisco, Cali­for­nia, USA: May 22, 2010, San Fran­cisco, Cali­for­nia, USA: Tony Ben­nett en­ter­tains at Dav­ies Sym­phony Hall at the 2010 Black and White Ball.///Tony Ben­nett. Cred­it: Mi­chael Ma­cor / San Fran­cisco Chron­icle / Po­lar­is. Cred­it: Mi­chael Ma­cor / San Fran­cisco Chron­icle / Po­lar­is

The show opened with Ant­o­nia Ben­nett, Tony Ben­nett’s daugh­ter, tak­ing the stage and singing her rendi­tion of a half-dozen jazz stand­ards, in­clud­ing Em­brace­able You, Lady and the Tramp and ’S Won­der­ful.

But it was the le­gend him­self that the crowd had come to see, and when Tony Ben­nett fi­nally came out of the wings at the Academy of Mu­sic on Fri­day night and took cen­ter stage, the crowd went ab­so­lutely wild, giv­ing Ben­nett a stand­ing ova­tion even be­fore he had sung one note.

When they fi­nally settled down — and it took a while — Ben­nett opened with songs like Maybe This Time and Every­body Loves A Win­ner, prov­ing his voice has not weakened at all over the years. In fact, if it’s pos­sible, he sounds even bet­ter today. 

Proof of that is prob­ably his latest al­bum, Duets II, on which he shares duets with such oth­ers as Lady Gaga and the now-de­ceased Amy Wine­house. Re­leased in Septem­ber to co­in­cide with Ben­nett’s 85th birth­day, the al­bum de­b­uted at No. 1 on the Bill­board 200 chart, mak­ing Ben­nett the old­est liv­ing artist to ever de­but at the top of the chart.

But Ben­nett didn’t seem in­ter­ested in num­bers and charts. The only thing he was in­ter­ested in was shar­ing his voice and his beau­ti­ful mu­sic with the ever-ap­pre­ci­at­ive audi­ence, which con­tinu­ally gave him stand­ing ova­tions. And so he con­tin­ued, belt­ing out oth­er stand­ards in­clud­ing I Got Rhythm, Just In Time, Be­cause Of You, and one of the crowd fa­vor­ites, I Wanna Be Around.

Stop­ping briefly, Ben­nett shared some stor­ies from his six dec­ades as a per­former, in­clud­ing the time he was singing with Pearl Bailey when Bob Hope did something that changed Ben­nett’s life.

“Bob came to see the show one night, said he liked me, and asked me what my name was,” Ben­nett told the audi­ence. “When I told him my real name was An­thony Domin­ick Bene­detto, he said that was much too long to fit on a mar­quee and changed it to Tony Ben­nett.”

And so, here stood the mag­ni­fi­cent Tony Ben­nett today, ac­com­pan­ied by four tal­en­ted mu­si­cians — Lee Mu­siker on pi­ano, Gray Sar­gent on gui­tar, Har­old Jones on drums, and Mar­shall Wood on bass. Ben­nett was quick to ac­know­ledge their mu­si­cian­ship sev­er­al times dur­ing the show.

Ben­nett also was quick to ac­know­ledge how much he en­joyed play­ing Phil­adelphia, and most es­pe­cially ap­pear­ing in the Academy of Mu­sic, which he called a great con­cert hall, one of the best in the world. As a way of prov­ing that the acous­tics at the Academy are second to none, he asked that his sound man turn off the sound, and he sang his next song without a mi­cro­phone. Even those in the fourth bal­cony could hear every word.

At one point, Ben­nett’s daugh­ter re­turned to the stage to sing a duet with her fath­er, and, al­though the crowd was cour­teous, it was Tony Ben­nett, the star, they had come to see. And he didn’t dis­ap­point — not at any point of the al­most two-hour show.

And his stam­ina nev­er seemed to waver, even as he con­tin­ued with the softly sung Shad­ow of Your Smile, Fly Me to the Moon, Charlie Chap­lin’s Smile, and, of course, I Left My Heart in San Fran­cisco.

By the end of the even­ing, Ben­nett seemed genu­inely pleased by the people in this City of Broth­erly Love and the re­cep­tion he got after his per­form­ance — a little dif­fer­ent, he said, from when he first per­formed 60 years ago. 

And the audi­ence was equally ap­pre­ci­at­ive as they got to hear a true megastar leav­ing his heart, this time, right here in Phil­adelphia. ••

You can reach at .

comments powered by Disqus