×

Tony Bennett

A self-proclaimed "tenor who sings like a baritone," Tony Bennett greeted a capacity aud at the historic Apollo Theater and whipped through a familiar repertoire at the very top of his game.

A self-proclaimed “tenor who sings like a baritone,” Tony Bennett greeted a capacity aud at the historic Apollo Theater and whipped through a familiar repertoire at the very top of his game. With a confident and breezy air that belies his 82 years, and fueled by the generous bounce of the Count Basie band, the seasoned singer once again displayed a great awareness of nuance, intelligent phrasing and how to tell a story in song.

A jazz vocalist at heart, Bennett revealed the essence of swing singing with tunes like Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and the classic groove setter “In a Mellow Tone.”

He gave the sidemen generous time to open up, and they framed him with a mood-setting pulse-beat.

Bennett never quite sings a song the same way twice, and there remains an expectancy in his performance that keeps him fresh and his audience raptly attentive.

The singer offered the prophetic Gershwin brothers song “Who Cares?,” which includes the phrases “let a million firms go under” and “who cares what banks fail in Yonkers?” The tune was given a flavorful accent by Gray Sargent, the New England guitarist who has been a dominant voice in the Bennett rhythm section for the past decade.

Bennett makes no apologies for singing the old songs but offered timely wit when singing “The Good Life” with a tongue-in-cheek dedication to Britney Spears. With fond recall of his roots in Astoria, he sang “A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet,” a wistful look homeward.

Pianist Monty Alexander sat in for a holiday grouping that marked the release of Bennett’s new wintry CD, “A Swingin’ Christmas,” packaged with a family gathering cover pic inspired by a Norman Rockwell painting. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” served with a gentle jump beat, and a playfully brisk “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” set the mood for a joyous noel, but reading from the sheet music, Bennett seemed a tad uncomfortable with the dizzying word game Oscar Hammerstein designed for “My Favorite Things.”

A feature in most every Bennett performance is the acknowledgment of the theater in which he is appearing by performing a song unmiked to demonstrate the wonderful acoustics. With a salute to the Apollo Theater and its long history of notable performing artists, Bennett crooned “Fly Me to the Moon” to the sole accompaniment of Sargent’s tastefully supportive guitar. The intimacy of the moment was decidedly accomplished.

And of course there were those Bennett trademark hits “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which he has sung more than 10,000 times, plus “For Once in My Life” and the first song he ever recorded, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

For the opening set, the legendary Basie band, under the direction of vet sideman Phil Hughes, romped vigorously through some old charts that still manage to take flight with tight, unified precision. Frank Foster’s classic “Shiny Stockings” and Ernie Wilkens’ flag-waver “Basie” retained their former punch as driven by timekeeper Al Jones. Neal Hefti’s “Cute” brought Marshall McDonald forward for a dancing flute turn.

Popular on Variety

Tony Bennett

Apollo Theater, New York; 1,415 capacity; $129.50 top

Production: An AEG Live presentation featuring the Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Phil Hughes. Reviewed Dec. 16, 2008.

More Music

  • 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band

    Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas'

    Settling in to watch “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas,” you may have a burning question that applies to almost no other rock documentary, and that is: Who, exactly, are these guys? The ones behind the beards? If you’re old enough, of course, you probably know that ZZ Top started out, in 1969, [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST

    Jay-Z to Acquire Ownership Stake in NFL Team (Report)

    Jay-Z will soon acquire a “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team, TMZ reported on Friday. The team was not disclosed, but a source told the site the deal will happen in the “near future,” adding that the billionaire rapper “wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.” Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, [...]

  • (L-R) NELL WILLIAMS as Eliza, VIVEIK

    How 'Blinded by the Light' Brought Bruce Springsteen's Music to the Screen for a Song

    Blinded by the Light co-writer/director Gurinder Chadha knows firsthand what it feels like to be an outsider. Born in Kenya when the country was a British colony, she grew up part of the Indian/Asian diaspora who made their way from East Africa to London. For that reason, the 59-year-old’s movies has always dealt with the [...]

  • Blake Shelton, Trace AdkinsCMA Music Festival

    Blake Shelton Takes a Shot at 'Old Town Road' in New Single

    Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins have just released a duet, “Hell Right,” that seems to have a beef with “Old Town Road.” But is it a light-hearted, maybe even affectionate slam — or should anyone read culture-war significance into the two country stars expressing a preference for Hank Williams Jr. over Lil Nas X, the breakout [...]

  • Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven

    Department of Justice Backs Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case

    The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the next big music copyright case on the horizon following the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” decision, and taken Led Zeppelin’s side in the long-running copyright dispute that pits the writers of the group’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by [...]

  • Teddy Riley Walk of Fame

    From Blackstreet to Hollywood Blvd. as Teddy Riley Receives a Star on the Walk of Fame

    Many musical artists are responsible for hits, whether recording and writing for themselves or producing smashes for others. Teddy Riley’s got the success, having fashioned platinum-plated R&B works for, and with, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, Keith Sweat, Doug E. Fresh and more since the mid-’80s, not to mention the music of his own slick soul [...]

  • Album Review: Snoh Aalegra

    Album Review: Snoh Aalegra’s ‘Ugh, Those Feels Again’

    Apart from having one of the all-time greatest album-sequel titles, “Ugh, Those Feels Again” — which follows this R&B-leaning Swedish-Persian singer’s 2017 debut full-length, “Feels” — succeeds on a far more complex level: making familiar sounds unfamiliar. Snoh Aalegra signed to Sony when she was just 13 and released a more pop-leaning album under the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content