December 07, 2007

Tony Bennett Delivers Flawless Performance

Tony Bennett personifies excellence and class. On December 5, before a sold-out audience at Clearwater, Florida’s Ruth Eckerd Hall, the music legend delivered a flawless ninety-minute performance of time-honored hits and standards.

Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Bennett, dressed in a dark-blue suit with silver tie, commenced with “Watch What Happens.” Backed by a four-piece ensemble, he sauntered across the stage to the swing of the music, looking far spryer than his age of 81 would otherwise suggest.

More impressive than his vitality, of course, is Bennett’s extraordinary voice. Deepened and enriched by decades of experience, it seemingly has lost none of its resonant power. On animated versions of “Sing You Sinners” as well as “The Best Is Yet To Come,” the latter featuring former Count Basie drummer Harold Jones, Bennett sang with astonishing range and resilience.

Songs like “The Way You Look Tonight” and a measured version of “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” allowed Bennett to accentuate the subtleties of his sound, conveying each inflection’s importance, every note’s absolute necessity. He treated “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” with utmost consideration, singing his signature song like he’d just discovered its charm. And he concluded an impassioned rendition of “For Once In My Life” with a soaring crescendo, eliciting yet another enthusiastic ovation.

“Turn the sound off,” Bennett directed the audio engineer as he lay his microphone down. To the accompaniment of his now-acoustic ensemble, he performed “Fly Me To The Moon” with supreme command and passion, his unamplified voice booming toward the back rows of the concert hall. In a night of magnificent moments, this one topped them all.

Bennett then brought the evening to a close with “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” summoning as much emotion as the poignant song requires.

At one point in the show, Tony Bennett reflected on his sixty-year career, saying that he wished he could sing for another sixty years. Much to the man’s delight, his audience whole-heartedly agreed.