Thursday, September 13, 2007
There are thousands and thousands of good performers in the world. There are hundreds of great performers and then there are those who transcend the abilities of all others. These rare artists are able to captivate an audience in ways that touch souls and transform lives in just an hour or two. Tony Bennett is one of these rare artists.
Last night at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, I was privileged to attend one of the most memorable musical performances I have yet to experience. The master vocalist Tony Bennett held an audience in the palm of his hand for ninety minutes of absolute bliss. This is the first time I have every been to a musical concert of this type where the audience with an average age of over 60 rose to their feet in five minute long standing ovations in the middle of the concert. After Tony sang the most amazing rendition of "For Once on My Life" the audience rose and clapped and cheered with complete adulation. It was one of the most beautiful renditions of any song I've ever heard. And, needless to say when he sang "I Left My Hear in San Francisco", at it's conclusion we all jumped to our feet with gratitude that Mr. Bennett, with that song, has made our wonderful city a place that the world adores.
The most touching and profound moment of the show occur ed near the end of the concert when Tony told the sound man to turn off all the microphones. He and his guitarist stood center stage and as the guitar played Tony sang an unamplified version of "Fly Me to the Moon" that left half the audience in tears.
What is it that he possesses that enables him to achieve such perfection in his art? Tony Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3rd, 1926 has had his share of sorrow and trouble in his life. A soldier on the front line in WWII he watched his friends die horrible deaths beside him. He suffered failed marriages, alcohol and drug addiction and a career that nearly ended many times.
Ironically, these are the very experiences that make him the soaring performer that he has become. When Tony Bennett sings to you, he sings completely and utterly from his heart. He is a man that has survived the worst that life can dish out. He survived and transcended his troubles, and he has become what we all can only hope to become as artists: people who are able to let down the walls of doubt and fear, and open our hearts with love to people we don't even know. Isn't this, coupled with talent and skill, what touches us deeply when we go to the theater? For this is when life is looked at through a mirror and given to us just as it is, unadorned, mysterious, awesome and wonderful.