In the bygone era of TV variety shows and classic Las Vegas showrooms, singers worked shamelessly to be entertaining.
Somehow, that commitment was replaced with dim lighting that obscures the band, self-absorbed solos and rock stars that approach the role with aloofness that occasionally borders on contempt.
Not Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, who used good-natured wisecracks and breezy excerpts from the Great American Songbook as foundation for an accessible, old-school pop revue for nearly two hours Wednesday at a packed Amway Center.
Attired in a black dinner jacket and bow tie, Bublé took the stage with Sinatra-esque swagger to deliver “Fever,” a swinging take on the Little Willie John tune that has been covered by everyone from Peggy Lee (the definitive version) to Elvis Presley and Madonna.
It segued smoothly to the frisky “Haven’t Met You Yet,” one of Bublé’s own signature hits. Powered by a splashy horn arrangement that illustrated the skill of his 13-piece ensemble, it showed that Bublé can produce original material that channels his influences.
For better of worse, he more often shines the spotlight on the legitimate classics that he obviously loves: Although introduced with a nod to soul singer Otis Redding’s propulsive version, Bublé’s silky approach to “Try a Little Tenderness” owes more to the big band of Nelson Riddle.
Likewise, a faithful rendition of Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young” recalled with impressive accuracy the magic of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ collaborations with the Count Basie Orchestra. Later, he was joined by an 8-member string ensemble for a ballad-heavy segment capped by the melodramatic “Home.”
That might have become tiresome, but Bublé has a sense of humor, even about himself. In the opening moments, he riffed on being a new father, Justin Bieber and his love for all things Disney, all in the midst of an impromptu meet-and-greet that he initiated in front of the stage.
On a circular runway on the floor, Bublé teamed with a cappella opening act Naturally 7 to tackle favorites by the Jackson 5, Bee Gees and Beatles, embellished by blasts of confetti.
In the end, he stood alone to sing “A Song For You” without a microphone in the hushed arena.
Tony Bennett does that, too, but if you’re going to borrow, do it from the best.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun