BWW Review: The Best is Yet to Come -- PPAC Welcomes TONY BENNETT for a Memorable Evening of Song
The phrase "living legend" gets bandied about all too freely nowadays, but the superlative never was so fittingly employed than when describing Tony Bennett. Mr. Bennett's impeccable musicality made him the voice of his generation - and all generations to follow. Today, nearly seven decades into his storied career, he still sets the standard for vocal talent, consummate professionalism, and world-class live performance.
Mr. Bennett most recently graced the stage at the Providence Performing Arts Center in the 2013/2014 season, when he delivered an unforgettable and dazzling evening of music. During this week's return trip to the capital city, Mr. Bennett again inspired Rhode Island audience members to their feet with another positively ovation-worthy concert.
The set list, comprised of hits from the Great American Songbook, included gorgeous renditions of "They All Laughed," "This is All I Ask," "It Amazes Me," "The Shadow of Your Smile," and "But Beautiful." Mr. Bennett also featured songs that are all but synonymous with his rendering of them, such as "Steppin' Out With My Baby," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Rags to Riches," "Fly Me to the Moon," and, of course, his signature "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." His daughter, Antonia, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and an established vocalist in her own right, opened the show by offering a light, jazzy style in tunes like "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "That Old Black Magic."
At 91 years young, there's a little more rasp in Mr. Bennett's vocals now, but his innate musicality and instinctive intonation still come through clearly. During Wednesday night's performance, Mr. Bennett seemed energized with each new song and went from strength to strength as the set went on. Toward the end of the evening, he even joked with the audience, saying, "I can keep going, but I don't want you to miss The Late, Late Show."
Mr. Bennett brings wonderful interpretation to each song, adding special emphasis or small gestures to lyrics that transform the words into a love letter to his audience, a note of appreciation for their enthusiasm and support. He also delights the crowd with remarkably nimble dance steps and spins; at the Providence curtain call, he jogged the length of the stage three times to take his bows.
The utterly phenomenal Tony Bennett Quartet is a show unto itself. Featuring bassist Marshall Wood, guitarist Gray Sargent, percussionist Harold Jones, and pianist Tom Ranier, this flawless foursome filled PPAC's house with radiant performances from the first beat of music to the final bars of the closing number. These musicians don't just play expertly, they make each note of every song come vibrantly alive.
Tony Bennett clearly loves his life's work and enjoys sharing the music that means much to him with audiences across the globe. On stage he remains a master of showmanship, and in his hands, the lyrics printed on a page become sheer poetry. Mr. Bennett truly continues to entertain and inspire every time he steps into the spotlight.
Tony Bennett in Concert with Special Guest Antonia Bennett played a one-night engagement at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, March 11, 2018. To view Mr. Bennett's touring schedule and for news about his upcoming projects, please visit www.tonybennett.com.
Photo credit: Larry Busacca