It’s 2014 and Tony Bennett has the #1 album in the world. I’ll give you a minute to digest that.
Last week, just a few days before his initially scheduled stop in Santa Barbara, Bennett celebrated the chart-topping success of Cheek to Cheek, his brand new record of duets alongside art pop auteur Lady Gaga. Yes, the pairing is almost hilariously bizarre. And yes, plenty has been written about it. But look at Cheek to Cheek next to its fellow hot-commodity releases (Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack), and you’ll discover a rare, refreshing exercise in music making for music’s sake.
Fittingly, that same sentiment carried over nicely to Sunday’s sold-out, rescheduled concert at the Granada Theatre. Following a last-minute cancellation of his October 2 show due to a fluke power outage, Bennett returned to the 805 ready to dazzle, and he delivered fully with over an hour’s worth of history-drenched Great American Songbook classics.
For those who arrived late (read: in the last 30 years) to Bennett’s six-decade-long chart topping party, seeing the man live can conjure up a number of strange emotions. Personally speaking, the experience was kind of like stepping into a time capsule. Or maybe a Norah Ephron movie. It was surreal and awe-inspiring and, yes, a little tear-jerking — even when he mangled (or downright forgot) some of the words to “They All Laughed” early on in the set.
That initial slip aside, though, Bennett today still holds a candle to Bennett 20 years ago. He can hit the notes, bring the sass, and inflect “The Best Is Yet to Come” with that magical, ineffable blend of wistfulness and empathy. On Sunday, he graced us with some fancy footwork, gave his ace three-piece band adequate time to shine, and made good on almost all the career-spanning highlights, from “Smile” to “Sing, You Sinners” to “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” to “The Way You Look Tonight.”
It’s 2014 and Tony Bennett has the #1 album in the world. And if it happens again in 2015, no one should be surprised.