Any regular concertgoer will tell you about those “moments” that are now expected from certain artists.
Springsteen fist-pumping through “Born to Run.” Billy Joel strapping on the harmonica for “Piano Man.” U2 rattling and humming a powerful “Pride (In the Name of Love).”
Add Michael Buble to the list with his insta-classic combo of early 20th century swingers “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody,” which he performed 15 songs into his set on Sunday at Infinite Energy Arena.
Clustered at the end of a ramp extending halfway into the floor seats with a small pack of musicians from the 34-piece (!) orchestra situated on the main stage, Buble reveled in the spirited medley (popularized by Louis Prima and, to surprisingly great effect in the ‘80s, David Lee Roth) as the roused crowd shouted along in participation.
He danced. He laughed. He skittered down the stairs to get closer to the fans ringing the catwalk. He acted, as he had throughout the show, like a man genuinely grateful to be back on stage.
On the fourth date of a tour that will travel North America and Europe through November, Buble referenced his six-year absence from the road (he last played the same arena in 2013) in vague terms. But even casual fans know the heartache Buble and his family endured when 5-year-old son Noah was diagnosed in 2013 with liver cancer.
The young boy is in remission and doing well, Buble said when the tour to support his new album, “Love,” was announced last fall.
For two hours on Sunday, the dapper singer with the velvety voice, charming grin and killer wit, held to a promise he made early in the show, to give people the “opportunity to let ourselves go.”
Opening the sold-out concert at the top of a long staircase as the sexy strains of “Feeling Good” fluttered through the arena, Buble, 43, immediately captured the crowd with a talk break about how hard he practiced the local pronunciation of “Atlanta” (nix the second “t”), the traffic nightmares on “Peach” Street and, most amusingly, his take on the recent major event in the city.
“After that Super Bowl, I could be average up here and beat the hell out of that ****show!,” he said to roaring applause.
Buble is beloved by grandmas and teenagers, young women in low-cut dresses and their dates who seemed perfectly content to experience this welcome dose of old-fashioned entertainment.
He’s learned from the greats – Sinatra and Bennett and his stated idol, Bobby Darin – and understands that the performance is as much about the delivery as the vocal prowess. But in addition to his warm abilities as a host, Buble possesses a gorgeous instrument best showcased on his sumptuous version of the 1950s gem, “When I Fall In Love.”
The setlist leaned heavily on classics he’s reinvigorated throughout his 17-year-career – a gently swinging “I Only Have Eyes For You”; the Dean Martin hip-shaker “Sway”; a finger-snapping “(Up A) Lazy River” dedicated to his beloved grandfather – all delivered with soft shoe dance moves and the power of the mighty orchestra behind him.
Buble played about half a dozen songs from his current album, “Love,” including the sweet lament “Love You Anymore” (co-written by Charlie Puth) and the piano ballad “Forever Now,” a song Buble referred to as “personal,” which is obvious given that it’s a lyrical lullaby to his children.
He engaged with the crowd – signing a poster for a young fan and handing another the mic to perform his “shower song” – was unabashed in displaying his inner goofball as he twisted during “You Never Can Tell” (most readily recalled from its use in “Pulp Fiction”) and, most importantly, was equally forthright with his sincerity.
Buble has experienced unthinkable heartache with his family, but emerged driven and dedicated to smothering his fans in musical joy.
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