Tony Bennett at the Royal Albert Hall
Multi-Grammy award winner and legendary vocalist Tony Bennett returned to the Royal Albert Hall for two nights over the weekend, leaping through a set of crowd-pleasing standards with his trademark charm and effortless vocal styling.
The man Frank Sinatra called “the best in the business” was on fine form, channelling Old Blue Eyes himself in One for My Baby (and One More For the Road) and other jaunty classics. His voice remains as strong an instrument as ever, holding the audience in the palm of his hand with solid, versatile delivery of emphatic show tunes (Cabaret’s Maybe This Time) and lilting country songs (Hank Williams’ Cold, Cold Heart) alike.
For a man of 85, Bennett was remarkably sprightly, standing throughout his 90-minute set and even giving a few quick-step dancing moves that drew warm whoops of appreciation from the audience. Famous for his engagement with contemporary artists – recording duets with Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse – Bennett stayed true to his assertion that “if you are creative, you get busier as you get older” with this triumphant, energetic performance. He certainly showed no signs of falling behind the times either, giving a cheeky nod to the current banking scandal with George and Ira Gershwin’s Who Cares – “Who cares what banks fail in Yonkers / Long as you’ve got a kiss that conquers”.
To the sound of rapturous applause, Bennett returned to the stage for an A Cappella encore of Fly Me to the Moon, filling the notoriously cavernous Royal Albert Hall with his voice and proving that his sixty years in the business have done nothing to diminish its crystalline charm.
There was no bombastic big band accompaniment here: Instead, Bennett’s exquisite vocals were complemented by an equally adept four-piece that included Marshall Wood on double bass and Harold Jones on drums. Towards the end of his set, Bennett delivered a pared-down rendition of the timeless Charlie Chaplin classic, Smile with the earnest, knowing expression of an artist who has seen it all, experienced his highs and lows, but lived to tell the tale with a smile on his face and spring in his step.
The three standing ovations gave an indication of the respect Bennett’s loyal fans have for a man who continues to give such heartfelt, spirited, versatile performances, even after all these years. Tony Bennett is a living legend: still dancing, still smiling, still the best.
Photos: Martin Evans