Tony Bennett, Royal Festival Hall, gig review: Showmanship as sharp as his dark grey suit

The 88-year-old never once breaks rhythm in this inspiring performance

Ben Walsh
Saturday 06 September 2014 04:06

"What's the idea coming so late," the crooner drolly berates a latecomer during "The Good Life" ("a song dedicated to my wonderful friend Lady Gaga"), without breaking rhythm.

The 88-year-old actually never breaks rhythm in this inspiring performance, in which the New Yorker salutes us, performs slick 360-degree spins and smacks out kisses to his adoring audience.

Tony Bennett is a marvel, his rich voice in immaculate nick and his showmanship as sharp as his dark grey suit, with a red handkerchief popping out of his breast pocket.

He's still smooth, knowing exactly where to hold the microphone, even at one stage, during "Fly Me to the Moon", ditching it altogether and consistently excelling at his conversational, beautifully pared-back delivery, particularly on "The Way You Look Tonight" and Cabaret's "Maybe This Time". No wonder Sinatra called him his favourite singer.

The oldest swinger in town is also blessed to be accompanied by Harold Jones, described by Tony Bennett as "Count Basie's favourite drummer". The septuagenarian stickman is an absorbing study in control.

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" brings the crowd to their feet, where they stay for the exquisite "Smile" and "When You're Smiling". Overall, as Kate Bush would put it, wow.

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