There were so many vocal gymnastics during Michael Bolton’s and Wynonna’s performances last week at the Greek Theater that one half-expected to see judges holding up scorecards.
The aptly dubbed Voices Tour was a two-artist showcase of sustained notes and register-crossing vocals, with each entertainer serving up wisely-chosen nuggets from their repertoires in nonstop and well-executed sets.
Backed by a plethora of musicians and a stage set mirroring a mini-Acropolis, Bolton tapped every nuance of his vocal prowess and used every inch of the venue as he tackled tracks from earlier discs; he even ventured into a pair of operatic arias culled from his recently released Columbia Records disc “My Secret Passion.”
Though such tunes as “I Said I Loved You, But I Lied” and “Soul Provider” were met with unbridled enthusiasm from the crowd, his efforts on the arias, including “Nessun Dorma,” earned Bolton the evening’s first standing ovation.
And while his skill in this arena (much maligned by critics) is still evolving, he helped pull it off by not taking it too seriously.
He set up the arias with jokes about experiments and singing along, and at the end of a sustained high note (which was met by equally sustained applause), he quipped “There’s more.” The tactic — and his acumen — put the Boomer set at ease and opened them to the material that they wouldn’t necessarily associate with the singer.
Throughout much of the set, however, Bolton tapped into the de rigueur. His song list included the usual suspects and, as he’s often done, he appeared at one point in the middle of the audience to sing: though the tactic was anticipated by many of the fans in the house, and it continues to spur enthusiasm.
His frequent traversing of the stage added an element of rock-star energy to the proceedings, as did his confident demeanor and the lighting, all of which elevated the show’s quality far above Vegas mainroom spectacle.
But the choice of the lightweight ditty “It Takes Two” for a duet with Wynonna, was a wasted opportunity. A compare-and-contrast of the two unique vocalists could have been better accomplished by using Wynonna’s “Is It Over Yet” or “Come Some Rainy Day,” a pair of stellar, love- and life-affirming ballads. That endeavor could have created a dynamic and dramatic highlight of the evening.
Wynonna, though restrained by the small amount of stage real estate given to a show opener, worked the crowd like a newcomer eager to please the crowd, even before she learned — through a requested show of hands — that the majority had never seen her in concert.
Her attitude-backed growls and R&B influence on her country-pop material — such as on the previously mentioned ballads (which were set apexes) and “No One Else on Earth” — demonstrated without question that she has one of the best voices and musical sensibilities in the business.
She proved she has a good business sense as well. Wynonna’s move to momentarily forego her headliner status and join Bolton was wise, as her set undoubtedly prompted some Bolton fans to visit their local record store and nab, at the very least, her latest Curb/Universal Records disc “The Other Side.”