Crooning with Tony

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Tony Bennett was terrific and definitely “live”.  He hit all the right notes, did some soft-shoe shuffle, told little stories and truly entertained an audience which lapped everything up.   His daughter, Antonia, opened with 4 or 5 songs and then introduced her father who was onstage for about 75 minutes.   (He did one duet with Antonia during his set and the audience whistled, clapped and “whooped”  him back onto the stage for 3 or 4 encores).

We were quite a way from the stage so my little hand-held point & shoot struggled with the bright spotlight – it must’ve been blinding him!   The shots could probably be improved with some editing ….IMG_0378

When he first walked on stage he told a little tale about his name:  born Anthony Benedetto, he was singing as Joe Bari when Bob Hope told him he should use his real name  “But that’s a little long for the marquee”  Hope said “so let’s economize and call you Tony Bennett”.  IMG_0387

Before breaking into “Cold, Cold Heart”  he mentioned that he had been reluctant to record the Hank Williams country classic in 1951 until producer Mitch Miller declared “if we have to tie you to a tree, you’re gonna sing it”. IMG_0392

My recollection is that he sang  (not in order):  SmileCold, Cold Heart; The Best is Yet to ComeI Left my Heart in San Francisco;   If I Ruled the World; Because of you;   The Shadow of Your Smile;   Steppin Out;  Boulevard of Broken Dreams; I got Rhythm; and others.

And, of course  ….  Fly me to the Moon – which he did a Capella to illustrate the fabulous acoustics of the Warner Theatre.  The audience was utterly hushed & still;   I didn’t dare sniffle!!IMG_0375Playing with him were:  Pianist Lee Musiker, Drummer Harold James, Bassist Marshall Wood and Guitarist Gray Sargent.IMG_0385

It was perhaps fitting that the 86 year old sang in a venue only slightly older. The Warner originally opened as the Earle Theatre in 1924 – it hosted vaudeville and silent movies.   In 1945 they started screening movies only.  In 1947,  then owner, Harry Warner (of the Warner Bros) came to visit & declared that as he owned the theatre his name should be on it, so the name was changed to the Warner Theatre (and yes it is spelt with the r before the e).  IMG_0367Gradually the building fell into disrepair as most of downtown Washington also did in the early 70’s.    It bounced back as a small venue for concerts in the late ’70s but by the late 1980’s  the old girl was truly showing some wear and tear and it closed in 1989 for extensive renovations  – re-opening in 1992. IMG_0371

The manservant & I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and I’m sure dad’s spirit was crooning along beside me.   When we got home we broke open a bottle of scotch and had a few too many toasts to Max.

First year down  – I’m told they get easier from here.

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15 responses

  1. That had to be fun–dunno about the daughter but while TB wasn’t in my repertoire, I’ve seen him the past couple of years on specials and he *is* amazing!

    • I didn’t realize he had a daughter doing the tour with him and hadn’t thought about him having a support act so I was surprised when she came out and started singing. I didn’t hear anyone announce her name either so it wasn’t until she said “my father Tony Bennett” that I realized who she was. (no program guide).

  2. You are lucky and privileged to have seen such a legendary performer work his craft live on stage. He is one of a kind. What an accomplishment that he is still upright, let alone performing, at age 86.

    I got to see Liberace perform, front row center, a handful of times in the late seventies. He’d hand over diamond-encrusted rings to audience members to gawk over. He was another one never to be replaced.

    • I felt lucky to have seen him – I wish I’d had the opportunity to see him years ago (though I would not have appreciated him when I was younger).

      Oh wow Liberace! He was such a showman – I can imagine how much fun those concerts were. The most flamboyant person I saw on stage was Peter Allen I think.

  3. Excellent concert review of this legend’s performance Emjay. The Shadow of Your Smile is probably my favourite song.
    I think it is wonderful and a mark of respect for his talent that so many younger performers have recorded duets with him in recent times.
    I saw Gene Pitney in concert just before he died….a wonderful entertainer too.
    Max would be delighted that you went to the concert and thought of him afterwards.

    • Yes the Duet Albums are wonderful – I enjoy the younger performers “take” on those old songs. I remember Gene Pitney singing “Blue Angel” – and now that song will be in my head for days!
      I like to think that Max thoroughly enjoyed his night.

    • Well at first I thought we were going to be the youngest there (LOL) but the audience was really spread out from teenagers (few) to middles (lot) to old (>teenagers <middles). It was also a very enthusiastic audience – it was not like a performance at the more formal Kennedy Center.

  4. Do *not* tell my boyfriend, he would be so jealous – as am I! We love hearing Bennett. Especially during the holidays with his crooning Christmas songs. And great shots. Wow, what a beautiful theatre.

    • You would’ve loved it amelie. If you get the opportunity to see him grab it – at 86 he’s probably not going to be performing for a lot longer. But who knows – maybe he’ll still be performing in his 90’s – albeit sitting down instead of shoe shoe shuffling! 🙂

  5. Tony Bennett is not only a polished performer, he genuinely seems to like his audiences and works at putting them at ease. I’m glad you got to see him live. And that theater is gorgeous to boot: what a great venue to see a class act!

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