Mary Irvine: Concert Reviews, November 2014

Tony BennettTony Bennett

Eighty-eight  years of age! Surely not! I later check and yes, it’s correct. He was born in 1926.

I recently attended ‘The Tony Bennett Show’ at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. With not an empty seat anywhere the audience was comprised of the more mature members of society but I did observe the middle years strongly out in force and more than a sprinkling of 20 and 30 somethings. The show started bang on time, being opened by a quartet of superb musicians, playing jazz and blues. All of them displayed an affinity with their especial instrument, playing with such obvious enjoyment that I had the feeling I was being allowed to join a personal jamming session.

The main attraction was introduced as ‘the world’s greatest singer’ by the disembodied voice of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. What an endorsement! The reception was tremendous.  Not unexpected, as presumably everyone in the audience was a fan. From then on it was as clear, as professional, as… it ever was. No disappointment here of appearing and relying on ‘how good I was’ but on ‘how good I still am’.

 Tony Bennett is obviously aware of his limitations and the whole show reflected this, as he went for quality, rather than quantity. He used the musicians and acknowledged their support. He ‘worked’ the audience, his rapport was par excellence. A consummate showman and yet not overdone.

Of course we were all waiting for San Francisco and there was no disappointment there. But, to (mis)quote one of his songs the best was yet to come. When he turned to place his mike on the piano and utter those now expected words, ‘Would you turn off the mikes, please?’ the audience fell silent as collective breaths were held… Could he still do it? Of course he could! Did we ever doubt it! The world’s greatest singer filled the Royal Concert Hall in every corner with ‘Fly Me to the Moon’. No lack of volume, musicality, vitality there. I don’t think I was quite the first to jump, alright rise steadily, for the standing ovation but this was one tribute richly deserved. I note he has a return show booked for next year. Hope we’re both there!

And I am aware I’ve used too many exclamations, in case there are any anoraks out there.

Nana MouskouriNana Mouskouri

A second show I went to some weeks later at the same venue was to see the international singer, Nana Mouskouri. She had actually had her ‘last’ performance in the Herod Atticus theatre on the Acropolis in 2008. Unfortunately I had left Greece by then, so wasn’t able to attend. Have been to that open air amphitheatre tho’ as anyone who reads any of my stuff will remember!

A mere youngster compared to Tony Bennett coming in at only 80 which is probably why the tour was ‘The Happy Birthday Tour’. Her birthday is October 13th.

I was instantly envious when this woman, who is more than a decade older than my good self, walked on to the stage wearing the brightest of red outfit which was ‘simply to die for’ and there were the trademark specs which she has always refused to abandon. A good marketing ploy as it turned out. I used to have an identical pair but I digress. She waved at the audience in a very Greek manner and the thunderous applause and foot stamping subsided. By the way this audience was far more mixed in respect of age. There were quite a large contingent of late teens/early twenties and I don’t think they were all there to see their grans got home safely. Then began an eclectic mix of genres of song and language.  Now, I’m not a sing-a-long person but did find myself joining in some of the Greek choruses. Quietly, because I didn’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment and also because I don’t have a good voice! Yes, there’s another for those who are counting.

One song especially appreciated  by all present was a beautiful rendition of Loch Lomond which Nana explained she had learned during the liberation of Greece (post WW2). ‘Everyone was singing it’

Yet another artist who was confident and wise enough to surround her performance with excellent musicians, the interaction displaying that they were in tune with each other in all ways! Oh, dear, are those exclamation marks slipping in again! That’s rhetorical as it would be as I’m talking about a Greek. She was actually born in Crete and Cretans are quite different from the mainland Greeks in many ways, but Nana did go to Athens – with her parents of course – so that was probably the greater influence.
Her operatic training does come through in the pureness, clarity and superb diction she exudes, not to mention her ability to hold a note!!! Felt a treble emphasis overcome me there. I believe I read somewhere, years ago, that she only has one vocal chord which could account for the uniqueness of her voice.
I’m not often at a loss for words, either written or spoken, but, suffice to say, these two occasions were worth every cent/drachma I spent, on the ticket and the travelling.

I couldn’t help but notice that Tony and Nana shared many qualities about which I shall have a little rant. It’s all to do with stagecraft. Both knew how to use the microphone which meant they just didn’t hold it practically on top of the lips all the time so every breath could be heard. This was obvious when Nana’s daughter came on. We heard all her breath-takes. Have a word with your mum, love. Helene had a lovely voice and I’m sure Nana has helped tremendously in all respects but this lapse was very noticeable. There was relaxed and charming interaction with the audience from both performers. No rants. I heard that some of the gigs to which I haven’t been of late produce these. The Sex Pistols? OK! It was part of their particular charm! They certainly deserve at least one!.

I remember something that the late Richie havens often said to his audiences, ‘If you weren’t out there, I wouldn’t be up here’. A performer who acknowledges this humility will always fill venues, even into their 80, that’s the performers, not the halls!!!!

Mary Irvine's Blog: Xmas Overdone.
Mary Irvine's trip to Iona

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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