June 17, 2024
Tony Bennett
Live at Mohegan Sun
February 14, 2010
Matthew Robinson

Wow! Tony Bennett at the surprisingly acoustically-supportive Mohegan Sun Arena! It’s like Valentine’s Day, the Chinese New Year and Presidents’ Day rolled into one! Oh – it WAS all that! Supported by music director Lee Musiker, long-time guitarist Gray Sergent, Basie band beatmaster Harold Jones and  totally into it bassist Marshall Wood (who mouthed along with his strings when not smiling like a kid on another holiday), Mr. Bennett also enrolled the burgeoning talents of his daughter Antonia, who warmed up the packed crowd with her cupied smile and voice.

When the elder Bennett bounded on stage, he was greeted with a roar that was only duplicated by those heard after pretty much every song. Among the almost alphabetical listing of hits were the Borodin-based “Stranger in Paradise,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and a choreographed(!) duet with Antonia on Stephen Sondheim’s “Old Friend” that paired the divergent duo’s distinct vocals rather well.

Paying musical tribute to everyone from his childhood neighbors in Astoria to Fred Astaire, Pearl Bailey, Rosemary Clooney, and Bob Hope (all of whom were involved in Bennett’s start in showbiz) and even winks and nods to Tom Jones and David Letterman.Bennett flipped through pages of the Great American Songbook that are rarely heard these days and, with the help of his expert and inventive band, brought a freshness and immediacy (especially the timely “Who Cares” which refers to failed banks and other troubles of our times) to each and every one.

From a tumbly “But Beautiful” that was smoothed by Jones’ flicking brushes and a Latin-ate “Way You Look Tonight” that featured Sargent’s tasty touch and tone to Wood’s adding an appropriately woody low end to “Speak Low” and Musiker muscling through a solo reprise of “Maybe This Time,” the songs of love and loss and love again fit the night and fit Bennett’s impressively controlled and energetic voice for almost two hours of nonstop music and stories from someone who has 60 years worth. In the few moments when Bennett was not commanding the stage, the ebullient audience expressed their love and admiration for him.

“Sing it, Tony!” one particularly outspoken fan yelled.

“What the hell do you think I’m doin’?” Bennett replied, not missing a beat of the conversation or the song it interrupted.

It certainly seemed clear from the other thousands of seats. Maybe that fan will get it in the next 60 years.

In the meantime, the self-titled “original American Idol” continues to shine and to show what a true singer and a true showman can be.

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