By the time he sang “The Best Is Yet to Come,” toward the end of his sold-out concert Tuesday at Carmel’s Palladium, music legend Tony Bennett, 85, proved he had the energy and stamina of someone much, much younger.
Michael Feinstein, the center’s artistic director, acknowledged Bennett’s contributions to the preservation of the American Songbook. Feinstein introduced Bennett, winner of 15 Grammy awards, and daughter Antonia, his opening act.
Moving about the stage with natural ease, Bennett’s 37-year old, red-haired progeny showed off her own distinctive style, singing in a voice alternately sweet and sultry. Performing jazz tunes and standards that included “Too Marvelous,” “Lucky Guy,” “Sail Away,” “Taking a Chance,” “’S Wonderful” – here was one good example of how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Accompanying both the younger Bennett and her dad, who performed non-stop for an hour of the 90-minute show, was an extraordinary band consisting of Lee Musiker on piano, Gray Sargent on guitar, Harold Jones on drums and Marshall Woods on Bass. Luckily, the concert’s arrangements allowed for several featured solos for each of these gifted artists.
Bennett peppered his performance with anecdotes about show-business luminaries he has known, such as Rosemary Clooney, Bob Hope, Pearl Bailey, Mitch Miller and even Lady Gaga (they recently recorded together). He reminded the audience that he has been performing for 60 years.
Reflecting an uncommon versatility, Bennett’s program included popular music, standards, show tunes and jazz.
With voice still strong and powerful, Bennett hit the high notes and can still belt and swing with the best of them.
Warm, gentle and engaging, Bennett often prefaced his songs by saying “If I may, I would like to sing …” prior to sharing many of the songs that have made him and others famous.
They included “Watch What Happens,” “Sing You Sinners,” “They All Laughed,” “I Got Rhythm” and a stunning interpretation of Liza’s Minnelli’s “Maybe This Time.” Bennett shone in his own unique take on Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart.”
Fulfilling the wish of all those present hoping to witness father and daughter performing together, Bennett welcomed Antonia back on stage at one point, where they sang an affectionate duet of Stephen Sondheim’s “Old Friends.” Adding to the number’s charm was their easy soft-shoe dance.
Bennett later sang a haunting rendition of Jimmy Van Husen’s “But Beautiful,” with only the accompaniment of Sargent, who was outstanding on his acoustic guitar. Their quiet performance together was an unexpected highlight of the entire show.
In a concert where the hits kept coming, other selections included “Just In Time,” “I Wanna Be Around,” “Once Upon A Time,” “The Good Life,” “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Who Cares.”
Bennett was probably no more brilliant then when he sang his signature song, “San Francisco,” making it sound fresh and as if he were singing it for the first time.
Near the end of the concert, Bennett remarked that a lot of newer venue designs look like “file cabinets.” In a compliment to the Palladium, he added, “This is built just the right way.”
Requesting that the microphones be turned off, Bennett closed the concert with “Fly Me to the Moon.” Once again, he was accompanied only by Sargent on guitar.
The sound of Bennett’s silky voice combined with the plaintive guitar music that could easily be heard throughout the vast hall was a perfect showcase for the Palladium’s highly promoted acoustics.
It was also a simple yet achingly beautiful conclusion to the opening show of the Palladium’s 2011-2012 season that won’t soon be forgotten.
For tickets and information regarding future shows at the Center for the Performing Arts, call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.