Tony Bennett – Live at Symphony Hall

Tony Bennett Live at Symphony Hall
June 10, 2002

by Matthew S. Robinson

In an effort to help out Boston’s Coalition to End Elder Homelessness, “Tony Benefit” brought his musical magic to Symphony Hall. As guests argued over who was the most “elder” (in order to garner the coveted centerpieces at the fund raising tables), the eight-time Grammy winner snuck onto the grand stage to join his reconfigured band. Though long-time partner and pianist Ralph Sharon was notably absent, Lee Muskier and local sax man Scott Tony BennettHamilton almost made up for it. Otherwise, the show was greatly the same as any other Bennett show, not that that is a bad thing. Though a bit under miked at times, Bennett’s brave voice reached for the back wall as he turned to address the balconies during tunes like a casual “Watch What Happens,” a prescient and poppy “The Best is Yet to Come” and, later, an a cappella “Fly Me to the Moon.” “I Got Rhythm” led to a set of jazz club solos, including some tasty licks by birthday boy Gray Sargent and drummer Clayton Cameron’s first trap set fantasy.

“Mood Indigo” had a few blue notes, but “Old Devil Moon” lit up the stage with Bennett’s raspy delivery. Though the audience was apparently unfamiliar with the verse introduction to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Bennett’s theme song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” caught everyone up in a lovely cross-country trip from note one. On the other hand, the piano intro to “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” caught even Bennett off guard, as did Clayton’s crashy shots in “Old Devil Moon.” “Steppin’ Out” featured the dynamic duo of Cameron and bassist Paul Langosch and the grand finale of “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing” let everyone play. After the first standing ovation, Bennett returned to plug his new Blues album with a solo version of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” and to ask the musical question “How Do You Keep the Music Playing.” Though he had the city wrong (way wrong!), the feeling was right on.

©2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR