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Review: Tony Bennett at Winspear Opera House

Posted 9:43am on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

The disembodied voice of Frank Sinatra bounced around the beautiful room.

“Tony’s gonna come out now, and he’s gonna tear the seats out of the place for you,” intoned Ol’ Blue Eyes, “because he’s my man, this cat.”

The cheers heard at the end of the vintage recording were soon supplanted by the real thing, as a capacity crowd at the Winspear Opera House rose to its feet Tuesday night, and greeted Tony Bennett with the first of several standing ovations.

The 87-year-old crooner, backed by a crisp quartet of piano, drums, bass and guitar, did not disappoint over the next 65 minutes, showcasing a voice that has aged like well-loved leather. There are cracks and scuffs in places, but it’s still inviting and oh-so-comfortable.

That Bennett, nearing his 90th birthday, still has the lung power to blow most contemporary vocalists off the stage is impressive enough, but he also still approaches anew songs he’s been singing for six decades, seeking the emotional core of every number and carving out the nuance with the skill of a master.

Whether the material was light ( They All Laughed; Steppin’ Out with My Baby) or heavy (his reading of Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, a homage to Martin Luther King, Jr., a day after the national holiday, was intensely poignant), Bennett ably handled the shifts in tone.

It was, in short, a performance in which the Winspear’s seats were metaphorically ripped out of the floor and tossed aside.

Bennett stands alone, not just because his is an art that seems less appreciated with every passing year, but because he continues to seem so vital, carrying on rather than calcifying. (He even cracked a joke about Lady Gaga, with whom he’s recorded a duets album, due out in September: “I want you to buy it, because she needs the money.”)

As the man himself sings in that timeless standard, The Way You Look Tonight: Never, never change — keep your breathless charm.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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