Review and Photos By: Lexi Lewis
Mahaffey Theatre – St. Petersburg, FL
The beautiful Mahaffey Theatre brings the finest talent in the entertainment industry through its doors one show at a time. The night of Monday, March 7th was no different. On this particular night, the nearly 90-year-old American icon, Tony Bennett, graced the stage before a sold out show - again. But, before he came on, his talented daughter Antonia Bennett opened for him. To my surprise, she came out on stage in a lovely royal blue knee length dress with a white jacket, black heels and a protruding stomach. I had to take a second look to verify that she was performing pregnant! I guess if you’re a Bennett, age nor child-bearing status will stop you from performing. Antonia delivered a stellar performance, for about thirty minutes, before her dad appeared on stage.
Shortly after she exited the stage, Tony Bennett entered from stage right, walking past the piano as he waved to the excited and applauding audience. He took time to acknowledge the applause as he stood in front of the piano. In addition to the piano, the other instruments on stage were guitar, drums and upright bass. He wore black shoes, black pants, blue shirt, yellow jacket and a blue printed tie.
As a nice transition from his opening act to his show, he called his daughter back on stage where they sang a song together. At one point during the song, they did a few cutesy synchronized steps which made the audience giggle. Antonia moved pretty well; stomach and all. After the song, he began his show. He passionately sang a Jimmy Van Heusen song, just him and a guitar. Every note which left his mouth was as pure as his forthcoming grandchild’s innocence. He finished the song, the audience clapped then he motioned acknowledgement by placing his hand on his forehead and quickly pulling it away.
As he sang song after song, he held his notes long and clear! Sometimes, as one ages the voice changes a little but his voice, not one bit. In my previous review of his show two years ago, I stated that I’d become a fan. Okay, not only am I a fan but a fan who now wishes he’d only sing to her. His voice is captivating to me. While he stood by the piano the majority of the time, I kept wishing he’d walk over to the edge of the stage so we’d lock eyes and I could give him the most genuine smile I could ever exhibit.
He sings so eloquently and tells an emotional story through song so much so that it captures and keeps your attention. However, he did intentionally hum a little in a song but that didn’t matter to me, he could hum the entire song and he’d still have my attention – he’s Tony Bennett!
The concert continued but as he spoke to the audience he mentioned he was voted artist of the year AND that he will be celebrating his 90th birthday soon (August 3rd). After he stated that he said “you guys keep me young.” Can you believe Tony Bennett will be 90 years old and he is STILL performing and STILL performing to sold out shows!?
He began to sing “Just In Time” but the audience clapped before he got five words out of his mouth; I guess I wasn’t the only one anticipating his every note. After that, he stated he’d sing to us the very first song he recorded “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from the 1952 debut album “Because of You.” Again, the audience immediately clapped.
Like many of my musician friends, he also has a sense of humor. As he transitioned to the next set of songs, he briefly talked about his project with Lady Gaga (which I own and love) then said “we’d like you to buy that record because she needs the money.” This statement made the audience burst into laughter because we ALL know that’s a joke.
Next up was a song which I adore “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” but done Tony Bennett style; it was so beautiful. As I stated earlier, I waited for him to come closer to the edge of the stage but when he sang this particular song, I just knew he’d come to my side of the stage! He didn’t budge. My fantasy of singing the duet with him was over. I was sitting in the third row from the stage on the very end so I know he wouldn’t have missed me! I thought I’d have to opportunity to turn it into a duet with him like he did with Aretha Franklin. Now, I’m no Aretha Franklin but I would have held my own singing a duet with this icon! So, Mr. Bennett, when are WE going to do a duet!? My dad was a professional singer and my 12 year old son is now a professional singer so yes, I can hold a tune or two. Let’s record it after your 90th birthday so I have the honor of saying “yes, I recorded this duet with Mr. Bennett when he was 90 years young.” I’ll be waiting on that call (wink).
The ending of “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” was grand! The house lights came on to a standing ovation. He said “should we keep going?” He didn’t need to ask that question as if he would not go on!? I wasn’t ready for it to end and I don’t think the rest of the room was either.
After a song or two he picked up a rather full glass of water and started singing the words “It’s a quarter to three…” While everyone else was listening, all I could do was think about him spilling that glass of water! As he sang, the water shook from one edge of the rim to the other. I couldn’t focus on the music, I just knew it would spill. No, it didn’t, because he’s a pro! He finally drank the water when it was time for the piano solo; I wished he took a gulp instead of a sip to help calm my nerves! When the solo was over, he was at it again – yes, singing but that’s not what I’m referring to. He was back at shaking that glass of water again!
The show was continuously phenomenal with world class musicians backing the Bennetts. They each played gracefully the entire time and delivered impressive solos when called upon. First the piano, then guitar, then the upright bass and finally the drums. By the way, I noticed the drummer was all smiles the entire show. Nice way to keep the energy up! There was never a dull moment in the show.
After he sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” he received yet another standing ovation. The theatre brought the house lights up so I took the opportunity to turn and look back at the entire place on their feet. I can only imagine what that felt like to him.
The audience sat back down and he spoke for a few moments again advising us that in June he will be performing for the Royal family. What an honor but Mr. Bennett, if you will, please don’t have such a full glass of water on stage, you want the Royals focusing on your music and not the possible spilling of the water like I did!
The next topic of discussion couldn’t have been sweeter for me. He spoke of his disbelief of receiving a note signed by Charlie Chaplin thanking him for making the song “Smile” famous again. Here’s where this comes full circle for me. While you, Mr. Bennett, were in disbelief of receiving a note signed by Charlie Chaplin, I was in disbelieve two years ago when I received a note from you at my home, signed by you, thanking me for a wonderful review of your show and the fact that I was a new fan. So, just as you speak of your letter, I now speak of your letter to me! I was in shock and it is now one of my prized possessions, thank YOU Mr. Bennett.
But before I close this review out, I have to tell you that when he sang the words “if you’ll just smile” a tear rolled down my face at that very moment. His passionate delivery of those words just touched me to my very core.
As if I wasn’t emotional enough at this point, he sang “Fly Me To The Moon” with no microphone – my favorite part of the show! It was so amazingly quiet that the farthest chair in the upper balcony could hear him. Incredible.
He exited the stage after a farewell motion. The audience was on its feet screaming and applauding. He returned to the stage, touched his heart, gave a thumbs up then left again. The audience didn’t want him to go, we needed to see him one more time so the standing ovation and applause didn’t stop. He returned to the stage yet a second time to say farewell. This time he gave a huge smile and two thumbs up then left the stage for the last time.
If you have not seen a Tony Bennett concert, you must. Plain and simple. It’s amazing. It’s captivating. It’s emotional. It’s memorable!
For tour and other information about Tony Bennett please visit his website at www.tonybennett.com.