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).
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”.
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”.
My recollection is that he sang (not in order): Smile; Cold, Cold Heart; The Best is Yet to Come; I 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!!Playing with him were: Pianist Lee Musiker, Drummer Harold James, Bassist Marshall Wood and Guitarist Gray Sargent.
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). Gradually 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.
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.