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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 51
Tony Bennett glistens in flawless Paramount show
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Tony Bennett glistens in flawless Paramount show

by Jerry L. Peerson - SGN Contributing Writer

Tony Bennett
December 17
Paramount Theatre


Showbiz simply doesn't get classier than a Tony Bennett performance.

By the time the dapper living legend was mid-stride - taking his second step onto the Paramount Theatre stage - I, like everyone else in the packed house, was on my feet applauding. This was to be an ever-recurring theme for the evening - I lost count after eight standing ovations. There is hardly an entertainer alive who can claim this feat, much less truly merit it.

With an infectious and endearing perma-grin, Bennett graciously swung and swayed his way through a variety of hits he helped popularize many decades ago. The rousing opener 'Watch What Happens' was followed by a charming version of Gershwin's 'They All Laughed.' Then, being only one week away from Christmas, the band - four first-class and dressed-to-the-nines musicians, including Harold Jones ('Count Basie's favorite drummer' as Bennett pointed out) - appropriately switched gears into a wistful holiday medley consisting of 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' and 'White Christmas,' that concluded with the crooner belting out 'Merry Christmas, everyone!' with Santa-like sincerity. Maybe he was just warming up and settling in for the first few numbers, because from the fourth selection on, the man again proved why he is, as Frank Sinatra proclaimed in a 1965 Life magazine interview, 'the best singer in the business.'

When reaching a climactic moment performing Cabaret's 'Maybe This Time,' tears were shed, goosebumps were aroused, and ears were treated to the solid-gold pipes that, at age 85, sounded every bit as powerful and moving as vintage Tony Bennett.

A lifetime in the spotlight can certainly make for a countless number of captivating stories to be told. His adoring audience was repeatedly rewarded, learning first-hand from a jovial and talkative Bennett how the late iconic comedian Bob Hope had advised a young Anthony Dominick Benedetto to shorten his name, hence Tony Bennett. Also, before breaking into a rendition of Hank Williams' 'Cold Cold Heart,' the singer stated with a chuckle that he 'and Rosemary Clooney were the first American Idols,' and that 'she came in first,' alluding to their competition on a 1948 televised talent show.

Whether they were musical or comical, this was an evening full of heartwarming highlights such as an enthusiastic dance and duet he shared with daughter/show-opener Antonia Bennett, and the dedication of 'Kiss the Good Life Goodbye' to the modern-day mogul Lady Gaga, stating 'she is a wonderful singer' and bestowing her with even more well-rounded credibility.

Near the end of the set, an impressive and unamplified version of 'Fly Me to the Moon,' culminating with Bennett graciously extending his hand out to fans as he sang the final words, 'I love you,' was exceptionally touching. No matter young or old, spending a night with Tony Bennett has an overwhelming ability to fill just about anyone with a sense of warmth and optimism. And as he stood for his third and final curtain call, reciprocating true appreciation, it dawned on me just how relevant and perhaps even more important it is given today's turbulence to find this caliber of positivity in not only the world of music, but the world as a whole.

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