Tony Bennett is probably best known for two things: being very, very old—old enough to have fought in World War II, which he did—and hanging out with the likes of Frank Sinatra, who called him the best singer in the business. He might not have attained the stature of a Frank or a Dino, but he does have one advantage over them: he is still alive, and so we get to see him.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TONY
Despite his age, Tony has the voice of a man a quarter of his age. He seems able to hit any note he damn well pleases. This seems so unreasonable for a man his age that one almost suspects him, like Charlie Watts on his drums, to have a tape playing in the back.
Speaking of old drummers, Tony is not even the oldest man on stage. That accolade goes to drummer Harold Jones, who was apparently Count Basie’s favourite stick man and has since then played with pretty much everyone, including Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank himself.
The air is thick with living legends, and the crowd is generous not only with declarations of love but also with standing ovations. “Happy birthday, Tony,” someone shouts, as he had just turned 86 the prior week.
GETTING INTO THE SWING OF THINGS
Moving on to the music, Tony’s daughter Antonia sings for roughly the first 20 minutes before the great man himself enters. The concert is supposed to last for 90 minutes, but the crowd is welcoming and Tony goes into overtime. With the cheapest tickets at 9,000 krónur, it all works out to be around 100 krónur per minute of Tony.
But that’s math, and we’re supposed to be talking about music here. Tony seems to be of the “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” school, and most songs are performed in the same tempo. Old warhorses like “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams,” which he introduces as the first song he ever recorded, and “One For My Baby And One For The Road” are performed not as late night wistful ballads but rather as up-tempo numbers.
A TRIP TO THE MOON
It is in the last half hour or so, when the band brings the tempo down, that the set really flies, especially “Fly Me To The Moon,” performed without a microphone. A crowd member attempts to sing along, but is quickly shushed by performers and attendants alike.
The fact that the song comes across says a lot about both Tony’s voice and Harpa’s acoustics. Even Tony himself, who has seen them all in the past 60 years, seems impressed by the hall. The admiration seems mutual. As the crowd departs and the chattering starts, the consensus seems to be that it was money well spent.
Tony Bennett performed at Harpa – Eldborg on August 10. To see what’s coming up there, check out www.harpa.is