By Jenny Peters
It was a gorgeous night on Saturday, July 15, 2017, at the Hollywood Bowl when Tony Bennett joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its conductor Gustavo Dudamel for an evening of American classics.
The 90-year-old crooner skipped his way onto the stage after intermission, looking spry in a bright yellow sports coat that made him visible from the furthest-away seats in that lovely venue. It was a homecoming of sorts for the singer, who made his debut at the Bowl 55 years ago in July 1962. And while his voice was most certainly stronger and more on pitch than it was at his 2017 show, no one in the audience seemed to care, as the capacity crowd cheered him on as he went through a set of familiar tunes.
Bennett was ably backed up by his quartet – Billy Stritch on piano, Gray Sargent on guitar, Marshall Wood on stand-up bass and Harold Jones on drums – as well as the L.A. Phil and Dudamel, who joined in on a number of songs. From George and Ira Gershwin’s “They All Laughed” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and on to Irving Berlin’s “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer’s “I’m Old Fashioned” and Kern and Dorothy Fields’ classic “The Way You Look Tonight,” the evening’s songbook was completely familiar.
What came as a surprise was the moment Bennett called out his friend Lady Gaga to the stage, much to the delight of the audience. The pair released a hit duet album, “Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek” back in 2014 and did a concert tour then, too. On this night at the Hollywood Bowl, they sang two songs – “Cheek to Cheek” (naturally) and “The Lady Is a Tramp” – and Gaga proved her ability to make the jazz standard genre as much her own as her normal world of pop.
Earlier in the evening, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Dudamel did a lively set of performances, including two Verdi pieces (Overture to “La Forza del Destino” and Overture to “Nabucco”) and three Henry Mancini favorites (“Moon River,” “Charade” and “Strings on Fire!”).
All in all it was another winning night at the Hollywood Bowl, Southern California’s most beautiful and most beloved outdoor concert venue. Shows continue there all summer through September, with leased events happening into October. For ticket information, click here.
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