Tony Bennett, WWII veteran, author, painter, sixteen time grammy winner, and recipient of too many honors to list here graced The Grand Sierra Resorts Grand Theatre Saturday (August 9th). I wish I could have brought my mother to see this show. If genetics has anything to do with it, she is primarily responsible for my love of music. Plus, she was always supportive and encouraging in my musical pursuits. Almost 40 years ago she took me to see Benny Goodman. I don’t remember a lot of it, but I do remember being hugely impressed that I was seeing Benny Goodman. If she were still alive this would have been good payback. Tony Bennett is a living legend. He is the last of his generation still playing and pleasing people around the world on a regular basis, and he’s doing it as good as ever at the age of 88 years old. My one concern coming up to the concert date was that his voice wouldn’t be what it had been, but that was not the case. He sang as well as ever, belting out powerful melodies as well as softly crooning emotionally charged lyrics.
Tony’s daughter, Antonia opened the show with a twenty minute set of standards that included Always On My Mind, Lucky Guy, and ending with From This Moment On. In a clever twist, an old recording of Frank Sinatra introducing Tony Bennett was used as the evening’s introduction.
Tony came out to huge applause and started off with Watch What Happens, written by Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy. The evening was filled with recognizable songs from what is described as ‘The Great American Songbook’, a loosely defined collection of some of the greatest American songs from the first half of the 20th century.
It was a very special evening. There aren’t many performers still performing that fall into the legend category. There were no fancy lights or stage decorations – no costume changes or fireworks - only a short drum riser, but I didn’t notice or think about any of this until I was reviewing my photographs. Antonia joined her father on stage for Old Friends on which they sang and danced together. With over 65 years as a performer under his belt Tony Bennett is as smooth and comfortable on stage as a person can be. He shared stories from the past about some of the songs too. Near the end of the show he shared a story about getting a letter from the author of a song he brought back to the public eye through his performances. The song is Smile, and he was thanked deeply in this letter by its author, Charlie Chaplin.
His smile and enthusiasm for the music he plays is infectious. He has a quartet of very talented jazz musicians that he is touring with who can change it up and play just about anything on a moments notice. Band members joining him on stage were Mike Renzi on piano, Harold Jones on drums, upright bass player Marshall Wood, and guitarist Gary Sargent. All of these musicians have amazing backgrounds of their own. You couldn’t help but enjoy the show even if the music wasn’t what you would put on at home.
Much like the memory of seeing Benny Goodman, or Jimi Hendrix, and playing under Aaron Copland (google it kids), seeing and interviewing Tony Bennett will be a bragging point for the rest of my life. Get out of the house and listen to live music. It will get under your skin in ways you might not imagine.
To read my interview with Tony Bennett click here.
For a more reliable slide show click here.
…and the beat goes on.
Teach Me Tonight / Taking A Chance / Always On My Mind / Lucky Guy / Sail Away / From This Moment On
Watch What Happens
They All Laughed
Maybe This Time
I Got Rhythm
Cold Cold Heart
Sing You Sinners
Steppin’ Out With My Baby
Blue Moon (Replaced But Beautiful on the set list)
The Best Is Yet To Come
Just The Way You Look Tonight
Just In Time
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
The Good Life
Once Upon A Time
Shadow Of Your Smile
One For My Baby (omitted)
For Once In My Life (omitted)
I’m Old Fashioned
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
Who Cares (omitted)
When You’re Smiling
Fly Me To The Moon