Legendary crooner Tony Bennett graced the stage of the Osterhout Concert Theater Saturday night, delivering a performance backed by 60 years of experience serenading audiences.
Bennett, now 88, sang to a packed theater and a crowded lawn, with a special guest performance by his daughter, singer Antonia Bennett. With over a thousand in attendance, Bennett put on a show that was just shy of two hours in length. Tickets were sold for more than $75 for reserved, indoor seating, and $30 for a spot on the lawn. Thankfully, Binghamton weather was in rare form, and no rain fell during the performance. All things considered, it was a beautiful night to enjoy the musical stylings of Tony Bennett on the lawn, accompanied by the melodic orchestra of crickets in the background.
Antonia Bennett opened, recounting her experiences traveling the world with her father, to whom she ultimately dedicated her rendition of “You’re a Lucky Guy.” Delivering a genuine performance, Antonia proved herself more than capable of holding her own weight as an artist and, after a 20-minute set, passed the mic along to her father, who called her back on stage for a father-daughter duet of “Old Friends.”
Presented by a sound clip of Frank Sinatra declaring Tony Bennett “the best singer in the world,” the singer took the stage with “Watch What Happens,” and Binghamton University never felt more like Las Vegas. While at times, audio technicalities prevented Bennett’s voice from carrying far into the lawn, the problem didn’t impact the show too badly. It was crystal clear to the audience that a master was at work. Performing a set of over 20 songs, including cultural classics known by everyone and their grandmothers, Bennett crooned, and Binghamton swooned.
Compared to today’s music, Bennett’s older style demonstrates just how the ethos of American music and culture has changed over the last seven decades. The music feels hopeful and, even when melancholy or somber, it rarely has the cynicism that seems so pervasive in culture today. Many of the songs come from a post-war buzz in mid-20th-century America. A time when the USA was at the top of the world, and they really did believe that the best was yet to come. While many younger people simply dismiss this “old people music,” Bennett takes you back to a very different America, before rock and hip hop dominated the music market.
Bennett wasn’t the only master at work, as he was accompanied by a band of all-star musicians. With pianist Michael Renzi, bassist Marshall Wood and drummer Howard Jones, the instrumental solos were executed with perfection and passion.
At one point during the show, Bennett dedicated a song to Lady Gaga, announcing the unlikely duo’s collaborative jazz album, “Cheek to Cheek,” set for a late September release. Don’t expect the Lady Gaga you’re used to, however, as its seems from recent music videos for the album’s singles that, while her outfits are still outrageous, Gaga is making a return to her theatrical roots with her singing style. While completely out of left field, the musical chemistry shared by Gaga and Bennett works surprisingly well. The duo will also be modeling H&M’s holiday collection this year.
After a crowd of pleas for an encore, Bennett obliged. He sang a few more songs, one of which he performed, with no explanation, holding what appeared to be a small dog. When he was done, Bennett, smiling, waved goodbye and walked offstage.
Ellen and David Tosh, a couple from West Pittston, Pennsylvania, traveled for over an hour and a half to see the show. David, who’s seen Bennett several times before, at venues including Las Vegas, was very impressed by the performance here in Binghamton.
“The performance was great,” said Ellen. “Tony still sounds great over the years. The venue was great too, we’ll definitely be back.”