Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tony Bennett

We have been fortunate enough to see Tony Bennett in concert on three different occasions at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia. And each time, the octogenarian put on a spectacular show. He sang for 90 minutes with no intermission. He never sat down, he never leaned against the piano or on a bar stool. And his smoky, dusky voice remained true.

the first time, before the concert began, three people sat down next to me. Together, they must have weighed 1200 pounds. Edgar offered to change seats with me and the words were barely out of his mouth when I stood up and we switched seats. The man who had been next to me and was now next to Edgar asked, "did your wife move because I'm so fat?" Edgar nodded and said, "It's not your fault."

Then a normal sized couple came and sat down next to me. The concert began. Tony Bennett started crooning and the stranger next to me, not Edgar, started singing along. I poked him, put my pointer finger to my lips, and he stopped - temporarily. I had to poke him three more times before he finally understood to keep quiet.

During that concert, Tony Bennett forgot the words to one song that he was singing in Italian. He la-la-la'd it until he caught up to the words and then said, "what do you expect from an Italian boy who was born in New York?"

Our second time gave us another memorable experience. We were sitting about 12 rows from the stage. An elderly, infirm couple on our row enjoyed Tony Bennett's singing and crooning. They swayed with the music and their eyes danced with delight. They couldn't move their feet because she had a cane and a crutch and he had a cane. But then Tony Bennett sang "Come Fly With Me" and she miraculously leaped to her feet, nevermind her cane and crutch which she left on the floor at her seat. She threw her arms into the air, ran to the apron of the stage, and shouted, "take me with you Tony. I made meatballs for you."

Nobody batted an eye and Tony Bennett did not miss a beat. She struggled back to her seat, still without her cane and crutch and beamed for the rest of the concert.

We felt that we had witnessed a miracle. It was almost as if we were at Lourdes.

We had misgivings when the third concert started and Tony Bennett's daughter sang for the first 15 minutes or so. Although she was OK, she is not her father. And she was a surprise - not listed on the tickets or the programs.

Tony Bennett put on his usual great, though slightly shortened show. He sang "smile though your heart is breaking," and told the following story. Back in the day, he got a long distance call from Switzerland. This was a very unusual occurrence. When he answered the phone he found out that he was talking to the composer who told him that his interpretation was the best he ever heard. And the composer was Charlie Chaplin.

A year or so later, we bought a coffee table book of Tony Bennett's sketches and paintings. He caught, in a few well drawn lines, the movements and spirit of the people he sketched.

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