Tony B crushed it…

…this week at the Austin City Limits Moody Theater.

The always energetic 86 year old road warrior (Tony’s been taking the stage 200+ times a year for over 60 years) was hitting on all vocal cylinders Wednesday night and delighted the near capacity crowd — delivering 25+ classically rendered TB hits for almost 90 minutes.

Maybe it’s touring with his daughter…

…(Antonia Bennett is opening for him on this tour) or maybe it’s the oxygen they pump into Moody Theater (joke) … whatever the reason Tony Bennett is clearly getting better with age.

I saw TB about ten years ago when he was on his 75th birthday tour. He put on a similarly great, high energy show that night at Bass Concert Hall (Austin) but I swear Tony’s vocal range and dexterity last Wednesday was superior. The man is incredible!

Traveling the world with his daughter and watching her take the stage in front of him every night has to put an extra bounce in his step, but I also think Tony is singing within his current (and still damned impressive) range better these days. Ten years ago he attempted to hit and hold some notes that I’m sure came easy to him for decades but were just starting to move out of reach.

Moody Theater setup for Tony Bennett

This time around TB hit all the notes he attempted — displaying that full, round, always distinctive Tony Bennet vocal style throughout the performance. As if to drive home the point Tony put down the mic on his final encore and sang “Fly Me To The Moon” with just light accompaniment from Gray Sargent’s guitar.

Tony likes to do the no-mic thing when the hall is right and he’s “feeling it”. Moody Theatre is an excellent acoustic hall to be sure, but it’s not a small place (seating 2,800) … Tony held the room transfixed with this number — and when he delivered his powerful TB signature finish, the audience erupted from their seats into a rousing standing ovation.

It was a beautiful thing to see and hear … to be a part of. Besides being a great performance, it felt special; like witnessing a piece of history.

Antonia Bennett…

…opened the evening with about half a dozen standards numbers. Antonia is her father’s daughter with a great stage presence … she did a fine job warming up the crowd with some Great American Songbook selections including “Taking a Chance On Love”,  the Mercer/Whiting standard “Too Marvelous for Words”, Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On” and  a very nice “Embraceable You”.

Antonia didn’t knock my sox off but, she has a strong jazz tinged and somewhat breathy vocal style reminiscent of Stacy Kent that I found enjoyable. I plucked her posted stream of “Embraceable You” for your listening pleasure.*

Tony’s setlist…

…was packed tight with the classic numbers we’ve all come to expect from a Tony Bennett concert event … “The Best is Yet to Come”, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, “Smile” … so many, so good.

If I had to settle on just five songs to capture the essence of this amazing evening (damn, it’s nearly impossible to distill it to just five) … the Kern/Fields classic “The Way You Look Tonight”,  Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow Of Your Smile”, the Motown heritage number “For Once in My Life”  … and then a couple of personal favorites of mine from Tony’s catalog — “Boulevard  of Broken Dreams” and “I’m Old Fashioned” were standouts.

Tony dropped in some nice change of pace numbers to break up the rapid fire hit parade …  slipping in the country classic “Cold, Cold Heart” with a funny anecdote about Hank Williams ringing him up to complain (jokingly) that Tony was ruining his song.

And about midway through the evening, Tony was joined by his daughter and they performed a fun song and dance version of “Steppin’ Out With My Baby”  … Tony can still pick ’em up and put ’em down!

The music…

…was simply incredible. Tony went to great lengths to feature the jazz quartet he had in tow and they were worth every ovation TB asked of us. Lee Musiker on piano, Marshall Wood on the upright bass, former Basey Band drummer Harold Jones and the crazy talented Gray Sargent on guitar … they played great stage charts for Tony’s classic numbers while seamlessly working into and out of the foreground for outstanding solo runs.  The music alone was worth the price of admission (well, it was close … these were expensive tix!)

A couple … OK, three missing numbers

With Tony’s vast oeuvre, there’s no way he can possibly get even just his first tier hits into a 90 minute show … something has to hit the setlist cutting room floor. Sadly one of my favorite TB classics “Stranger in Paradise” was one of those culled.

“Stranger In Paradise” – Tony Bennett*

I grew up on Tony’s music through a 3-pack box set that was a steal back in the 80’s and included three foundational TB albums — Astoria – Portrait of the Artist, Art of Excellence and the iconic I Left My Heart In San Francisco …38 tracks that represent a mix of Tony’s top tier and some lesser known songs that I played so often they are all top tier Tony Bennett numbers to me.

The other two songs I always hope to hear from TB are a couple of tracks off the I Left My Heart in San Francisco LP. These songs have become “our songs” to the lovely Mrs. Vstandards and me.

“Marry Young” is a beautiful number that carries a lot of sentiment for us because 33 years ago we did in fact marry young … and I would not give up all the struggling and growing we did together for real cash money.

“Marry Young” – Tony Bennett*

In a complimentary vein, I played “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” for my wife the first day I heard it … it still gets me all misty.

“Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” – Tony Bennett*

With or without…

…my personal playlist tracks in the fold, the timeless and classic 25+ song setlist Tony Bennett delivered last Wednesday was absolutely top drawer. Tony was simply amazing, the band was great … the evening could not have come off better.

[* Please remember that all songs streamed here are for REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT intended as a substitute for properly purchased original record company product. Give a listen and then please support the artists via iTunes, Amazon or your favorite music store. Artists/Record Labels — NO DOWNLOADS ARE SUPPORTED on this site; please contact me directly regarding the removal of any potentially infringing material.] 

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