Tony Bennett at the Royal Albert Hall
Tony Bennett is no stranger to the Royal Albert Hall. The Vegas veteran has appeared 20 times at what he considers his favourite venue and, as it was when he last performed two years ago, there are barely any seats empty in the auditorium to witness a veritable singing legend.
The stage set-up is entirely understated. There is no backdrop or ornamentation at all. The only thing to occupy it is the stools and instruments of Bennett’s quartet of musicians: Gray Sargent on guitar, Marshall Wood on bass, Harold Jones on drums and Tom Ranier on piano. Support comes from the Bennett-endorsed US jazz singer Donna Byrne who sings three numbers, once the quartet warm up with a five-minute jazz improvisation. Clearly grateful for the support slot, despite its curious brevity, Byrne’s set is pleasant but unspectacular, with her vocal flourishes at the end of Duke Ellington’s I Ain’t Got Nothing but the Blues entertaining but not captivating.
Captivating should be Bennett’s middle name rather than Dominick. Once his band return, and a voice recording of Frank Sinatra introduces the singer to the stage, the audience immediately stands and applauds the 20-times Grammy Award-winner, which he graciously welcomes with arms wide open and a beaming smile. From opener They All Laughed to closer Fly Me to the Moon, the crowd are in rapt reverence. Even though Bennett’s voice is not as secure as it once was, it still has the trademark sforzando, which propelled him to legendary status.
The setlist is drawn from his most renowned hits, which gains gasps of delight and spontaneous appreciative applause for classics such as I Left My Heart in San Francisco, For Once In My Life and The Shadow of Your Smile. But the singer’s most entrancing moments are his ballad renditions such as It Amazes Me, The Good Life and Boulevard of Broken Dreams, where we can marvel most at his powerhouse high notes, even if his finishing notes on songs fall slightly flat on regular occasion.
Though Bennett slips, his band never falter and their musical prowess is nothing short of impressive on the upbeat jazz numbers Steppin’ Out With My Baby and One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) where each member showcases their solo talents to Bennett’s effusive praise. All in all, the evening is an honour and privilege and it’s a pleasure to witness one of America’s greatest singers.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Tony Bennett’s website here.