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Event Review: Tony Bennett With The Artie Shaw Orchestra
Bank of America Pavilion, June 25, 2005
By Matthew S. Robinson
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Artist: Tony Bennett w/ the Artie Shaw Orchestra
Event Title: Bank of America Pavilion, June 25, 2005
Genre: Classic Pop
Download: “Just In Time”
Just in Time

As the crowd breezed in on tropical zephyrs, the musical theme was set by local legend Dick Johnson and the legendary Artie Shaw Orchestra. From the appropriately bright light opera fare of "Softly As a Morning Sunrise" and a tart "Tangerine" to the Big Band chart-topper "Stardust," the band offered a variety of themes. And though Johnson’s twinkling clarinet was occasionally lost amidst the harmonic horns, "Begin the Beguine" let him smoothly shine and his informative intermezzos kept him in the spotlight. Though Shaw’s rearranged version of "The Anniversary Song" went on a bit too long (even after the main applause) before dragging to a halt, the band got every last note out of it that they could.

After a short break, Johnson was replaced at the center stage position by Tony Bennett, whose quartet took over the left side of the stage while the rest of the orchestra remained stage right. As Bennett will be appearing in August at Tanglewood with the Count Basie Orchestra, this set up was fitting, as it allowed the spry septuagenarian to front another great ensemble. Despite the heat, Bennett smiled even as he sweated, saluting the crowd before opening with a prescient opening duo of "Watch What Happens" and "The Best is Yet to Come." With Paul Langosch snapping the bass and Gray Sargent hunching over his fleetly fingered frets, Bennett also gave props (and solos) to his relatively new pianist/conductor Lee Musiker and old friend, drummer Harold Jones.

Though much of the repertoire was familiar, the self-proclaimed "original American Idol" delivered each song with a flair that is almost unheard of in today’s world of lip-synched "live" performances. The closest thing to "record perfect" was the snap-along-able take on "Just in Time." A scatty "I Got Rhythm" pepped up the crowd while Hank Williams’ "Cold Cold Heart" brought a bit of refried Country to Beantown.

Apparently in need of a break, Bennett leaned on the piano while his locally-trained daughter/protégé Antonia offered her renditions of "Sail Away" and "Lucky Guy." Then it was back to the front for more including an expressively brushed "Steppin’ Out" and a subtle "Smile" that was painted with shades of Gray. The saloon-y "Maybe This Time" was accented by passing jets and the first of the audiences many attempts at clapping along in time. At the end of each song, however, they all came together to applaud the Voice’s favorite voice and to cheer him on for another 50 years of music.

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