Tony Bennett at the Royal Albert Hall
Legendary big show pop crooner Tony Bennett returned tonight to sing at the Royal Albert Hall, celebrating his 90th birthday. The spectacular majesty of such a venue perfectly befits the world-renowned status of one of America’s greatest singers. As the quartet play smooth jazz on the piano, guitar, double bass and drums, the air is palpable with anticipation for the performer’s stage appearance.
Bennett is dressed to the nines, looking as dapper as ever. At 90, he still appears strong and sturdy, and once he starts singing the first song, Watch What Happens, his voice is as timeless and youthful as it was 50 years ago. They All Laughed is a gentler tune, another timely track of the 1950s era, the instruments charming and playful. This Is All I Ask follows, as he plays to the audience, lightheartedly singing, “As I approach the prime of my life”, showing he still possesses his gentle sense of humour. I Got Rhythm is a jaunty energetic number, an upbeat jazz tune, with a sweet guitar solo mid song, and a crashing drum crescendo at the end. With Solitude, we clearly hear the poignant beauty in the lyrics: “In my solitude you haunt me/ With reveries of days gone by”.
It feels as if he is singing personally to each audience member, the melancholic empathy compelling, making one reminisce. The twinkling piano creates a dreamy feeling, whilst people drift away with their innermost thoughts. Bennett’s music and lyrics are not cheesy; the complete opposite in fact. They are poetic and create a serene ambience, where the listener feels relaxed and calm. It is not difficult to see how he is one of the world’s most popular classical pop performers.
Love is a common theme in Bennett’s songs, and it is clearly something he expresses with ease and grandeur. Whether it is unrequited love or the love between two people, he is undoubtedly talented at soulful singing. The frank honesty in his music makes it particularly moving, coupled with the fact we are celebrating his 90th.
Playing hit classics such as The Way You Look Tonight, Rags to Riches, and I Left My Heart in San Francisco, the American singer gives the audience what they want. A high point of the evening is when he abandons his microphone to fill the entire Royal Albert Hall with his voice, singing the hit Fly Me to the Moon. A stunning and spine-tingling addition to tonight’s set, and a rarity to see such a raw performance.
Going off stage and receiving several standing ovations, Bennett demonstrated he still has the energy and pizzazz of his former years, displaying genuine joy. Playing a whopping 29 songs, the set never lacked energy and was infused with his passion for this pop tradition.
Tonight’s performance showed Bennett to be a true master of his music, and still a legend after all these years.
Photos: Guifre de Peray
For further information and future events visit the Tony Bennett website here.