Sunday, December 14, 2014

What I learned by watching the exact same Tony Bennett concert twice in two nights (Part 1)

It’s not much, but, here goes.
1) The program in the program may or may not be the actual program
My personal concert program always includes a cocktail and wine prior to the show.
The program for the Tony Bennett concert included four pieces by the Nashville Symphony, and those were correct. For Tony’s portion, it said “Selections will be called from the stage”, which is standard jazz lingo for, “We’ll tell you what we’ll play, just as soon as we decide.” The program also listed “Featuring special guest Antonia Bennett”, who is Tony’s up-and-coming daughter. When she wasn’t there on Thursday night, I was sure she’d be there Friday. But no. Friday’s show was the exact same as Thursday’s, mistakes and all. We thought about going to the box office, telling them we came to see Antonia, not Tony, and we want our money back. Then we decided we didn’t want anyone to laugh at us that much, and even more, we didn’t want anybody to think we like Antonia Bennett better than her dad.
2) If you don’t practice out the mistakes, the mistakes don’t go away
The man himself. If you think the crowd didn't go absolutely bananas when this octogenarian strode purposefully to center stage,  you obviously don't appreciate what it means to be in the same room with a living legend. And note the big video screen prompter tilted on the front speaker. That's the one he didn't pay any attention to.
First of all, I’m not bemoaning the fact that an 88-year old guy forgot a few words of a few lines of songs he doesn’t sing all that much. And to be fair, lots of singers much younger use prompts and earphones and whatnot to help their singing and lyrical comprehension. And let’s also be clear: Tony doesn’t need any help with the songs he’s been singing for 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years. He’s got those. But on Thursday night, when he sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with “..friends who are near to us, will be dear to us, once more”, you could see him looking at the prompter, trying to squint it out above the spotlight, and then look around to see if the audience caught the problem, and then (no doubt), he thought, (correctly) “they didn’t notice, and if they did, they didn’t care”. But when he made the exact same mistake on Friday, well folks, I’m sorry to call BS on a legend, but that’s just sloppy. 
3) It must be EXTREMELY hard to play the same exact set, night after night
One line that Tony Bennett can never use: "Stop me if you've heard this one before." He sings any song that made him a bajillion dollars at some point in his career, and that's like a bajillion songs.
And by extremely hard, I mean extremely easy, and by extremely easy I mean, it’s easy to hit the notes and cues and hard to make it sound interesting. If you’ve never heard it before (Thursday night), everything is fresh and lively. If you’ve heard it before (Friday night), it starts to sound flat and finished, almost artificial. It’s like the second time you watch a movie you liked and you notice the shadow of a boom mike on one of the characters in the background. From that day forward, every time you watch that movie, you’ll be waiting for the shadow of the microphone. (It also kind of explains why they didn’t practice “Have ... Christmas”, because, who wants to play from the set list when they’re practicing?)
"You're beautiful!"
There are a couple other things I learned, and some better photos coming in part 2.


LB said...

Not bad for 88. Methinks he remembers words better than me and I'm well, a lot younger. Good review.

Eric said...

Yeah, it was funny though, because when he used "near" on the first line, you could see he was thinking about repeating "near" on the second line, but I guess he thought that would be too noticeable. So, he changed the whole line so he could use "dear". He still should have worked it out by Friday, though.