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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 15, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 16
Seth MacFarlane serenades fans with enchanting performance
Arts & Entertainment
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Seth MacFarlane serenades fans with enchanting performance

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

SETH MACFARLANE
WITH SEATTLE SYMPHONY
BENAROYA HALL
April 8


Everyone knows Seth MacFarlane from 'Family Guy.' But few know him as a trained, polished jazz-pop vocalist who has released three albums and earned four Grammy nominations in various fields, including a nod for 2015's No One Ever Tells You for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

The all-around entertainer, who also stars in Hollywood movies, packed Benaroya Hall last Friday for a performance with none other than the Seattle Symphony. The two-hour concert began with MacFarlane strolling onstage in a two-piece black suit with matching shirt and shiny shoes, taking a sip of bourbon (possibly whiskey) and launching into the first number, 'I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' from Porgy and Bess, which he comically described as the 'Star Wars of its day.'

After taking a jab at Donald Trump, the tall and trim singer performed the 1940 classic 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.' Leaning heavily on Nelson Riddle compositions throughout the night, MacFarlane crooned beautifully on 'Spring is Here,' a musical gem made famous by both Shirley Bassey and Frank Sinatra. On this evening, it featured some terrific sounds from the winds and brass sections of the symphony.

'I hope everyone gets their Groupon's worth,' MacFarlane joked with the audience. He interacted frequently with the crowd in between songs, mostly about music, but he also mentioned that he'd gotten out and about in Seattle to see the Space Needle.

'No One Ever Tells You' had a nice, flirtatious swing to it, while 'Ol' Man River' was elegantly sung under the direction of composer Joel McNeely, who has scored dozens of film soundtracks, including the MacFarlane-starring comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West. A cover of Sinatra's 'I Could've Told You' closed out the top portion of the show.

After a 20-minute intermission, MacFarlane and Symphony returned to form and began the second half with 'Rosie' from Bye Bye Birdie, followed by Riddle's nostalgic 'What's New.' 'Three Coins in a Fountain,' the Oscar winner for Best Original Song in 1954 received a loud round of applause from the audience, but even better was his rendition of Riddle and Matt Monro's pop standard 'When You Become a Man,' which got a standing ovation. This concluded a shorter second set.

Called back for an encore, MacFarlane unleashed a sassy version of 'Mrs. Robinson' and a sprightly re-do of the title theme from Guys and Dolls. A second encore featured another theme song, from the TV series 'The Love Boat,' partly sung in the voices of Stewie and Quagmire, plus the final tune, Frank Sinatra's 'One for My Baby (and One for the Road).'

As a baritone, everything McFarlane sang at Benaroya Hall was arranged to fit his deep, hearty vocals; he doesn't have the range to hit the high notes. I thought he did a superb job blending his voice with the Seattle Symphony, especially the string and brass sections. The only thing the Emmy Award winner lacked was pizzazz. He doesn't have the stage presence that Harry Connick, Jr. or Michael Buble have; those men move around a lot on stage and know how to work a crowd, whereas MacFarlane stood in place or sat on a stool for nearly the entire first half, although he did pick up the pace in the second half. He's talented, just not at the level of Connick, Jr.

MacFarlane is a longtime avid supporter of the LGBT community and an outspoken advocate for equal rights.

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