My fellow blogger Lesley, her ten year-old son Sam and I had the great pleasure of attending the Tony Bennett concert at the Bumbershoot Festival on Sunday, September 2, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.
We wanted to make sure to get the very best seats we could, and so arrived early and did get wonderful seats. We not only had time to meet interesting people (and tell them about this blog), but got to see the amazing Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who went played from 1:45 until 2:45. Tony Bennett and the Quartet started at 3:15.
The crew at Bumbershoot did a great job switching over from Sharon Jones to Tony Bennett. In addition to the stage crew, the piano tuner was making final checks and each member of the quartet came to check their instruments.
Lee Musiker takes a few quiet moments to review his notes while the crew works and the piano is tuned.
When Tony Bennett walked onto the stage, 12,000 people stood and cheered. Bumbershoot is primarily a rock indie music scene. This audience did a have a decent representation of those of us over 45, but the vast majority of those 12,000 people were well under 25 and they were cheering as much as the rest of us. It was long and loud and absolutely wonderful. I lost count of the standing ovations during this concert. But I will say that each and every one was deserved.
My Own Take
This concert was the fifth time that I had seen Mr. Bennett sing in concert and I believe that it was the best of all five of the concerts. He was in magnificent voice, but more than that he seemed to be having a wonderful time out on the stage.
Mr. Bennett has played with the same four musicians each time I have attended a concert: Lee Musiker (piano), Gray Sargent (guitar), Harold Jones (drums) and Marshall Wood (bass). The Quartet has been excellent in each of the those performances, but something extraordinary was happening last Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t so much the Quartet playing for Mr. Bennett but the five musicians playing together as a single force, completely and totally in sync and aware of each nuance from every other musician. It was one of those great jazz performances where the music happens so incredibly.
Tony Bennett often talks about how great the Quartet is and that being jazz musicians, it gives them all the opportunity to keep working on numbers and changing the tempos. This was completely in play in this concert. I can tell you from my own personal experience that every concert of Mr. Bennett’s I’ve ever attended is completely different from the others. It’s not just the choice of songs for the set; a song that he’s been singing for decades becomes completely new, with a unique and completely present emotional encounter.
Tony Bennett gives incredibly brave performances, because he is not afraid to show us all how deeply he feels about not just a song, but the deep emotions in himself that happen when he sings those songs. Many of us have trouble expressing emotion even to partners and spouses, much less to an entire audience. When he sang For Once In My Life, it was as powerful a statement of complete love for the person in his life than just words could say. His willingness to open his heart to the audience is why we love him so much; he gives us so much of himself and we reflect that love right back to him.
- Marshall Wood, laughing. Marshall had a great day last Sunday. I can’t ever remember him smiling that much and it was a joy.
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams sounding as though it was written yesterday. And yes, it made me cry.
- Maybe This Time. This song has become my own personal anthem and Tony Bennett’s performance of it just keeps getting better.
- Gray Sargent’s guitar work on The Shadow of Your Smile. His guitar and Tony’s voice match so beautifully.
- I’m Old Fashioned. I’ve enjoyed this song in previous performances, but it was one of the best numbers in this performance. They’ve been working on the arrangement a lot; hard to imagine this sweet song turning into a showstopper, but that’s what it was. Loved Marshall’s solo.
- Harold Jones’ drumming in Stepping Out. Superb.
- But Beautiful. What can I say? I love songs that make me cry.
- Smile. Mr. Bennett’s performance of that song is always perfection.
- Lee Musiker never taking his eyes off Tony Bennett and directing the quartet, while playing the piano and levitating off the piano bench at the same time. What an incredible musician.
- Tony Bennett applauding the audience.
- Tony Bennett telling the audience “We will remember this day for the rest of our lives.”
Every where we went in Bumbershoot after the show, people were talking about this performance. We would be talking about it, and complete strangers would join in our conversation to talk about a favorite song or a special moment. We went to the food court at the Seattle Center for a quick bite before the drive back to Portland and wound up talking to the young couple at the next table for nearly an hour about the concert. Everyone who went wanted to share the experience. People, young and old, had been deeply touched by what they had heard and felt compelled to talk about what it all meant to them.
I know that feeling well. It’s why I started writing this blog.
Tony Bennett is indeed a legend. He is a great singer and a great performer. But in singing to us, he communicates to each of us about life: the good and the bad. But mostly the truth and beauty that is there for us all and, if we allow it for ourselves, he gladly takes us along on that amazing path with him.
The Set List
Watch What Happens
They All Laughed
Maybe This Time
I Got Rhythm
Cold Cold Heart
Sing You Sinners
The Way You Look Tonight
Because Of You
Just In Time
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
The Good Life
Once Upon a Time
The Shadow of Your Smile
One For My Baby
For Once in My Life
The Best Is Yet To Come
I Left My Heart in San Francisco
I’m Old Fashioned
When You’re Smiling