Early in Michael Buble’s June 29 show at Conseco Fieldhouse, when the popular singer was mangling “Mack the Knife” and offering a reading of “All of Me” that seemed like he had memorized the lyrics phonetically, I kept flashing back to times I’ve heard such Great American Songbook tunes done more effectively.
No, I’m not talking about performances by Frank Sinatra or Barbara Cook or Mel Torme. I’m not even thinking of Harry Connick.
I’m thinking of the half dozen acts I’ve seen take the stage at both iterations of The Cabaret (now housed at the Columbia Club). I’m thinking of Tony DeSare, who has performed as a guest with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and charmingly took no prisoners. I’m recalling vocalist Carol Harris being pulled up from the audience at The Jazz Kitchen to sing “Our Love is Here to Stay” during Stacie Sandoval’s June 23 set. And of Sandoval’s own reading of “The Nearness of You” during that same show.
And I’m thinking of the teens that performed at Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook competition.
I could go on. There are plenty more examples.
Sure, Buble knows how to put on a show. And he knows how to invigorate his fan base. But early on, this Buble novice began to wonder if the singer’s love for the adoration of the crowd outweighed his love for the music.
Sure, he brought a stage full of fine musicians with him (along with screens that sometimes seemed to be playing alien biology videos), but there was no rhyme or reason to his song selection—and no connection between the often-blue patter and the tunes themselves. Ends of lines faded out, key elements were garbled, and dramatic lighting couldn’t mask a sense of get-it-over-with, not in the show itself but in individual songs.
His desire for effect over interpretation was clear when he told an anecdote about knowing what he wanted to do with his life after seeing the parade float scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” A savvier performer would have used the story to launch a version of "Danke Schoen." Instead, Buble launched into “Twist and Shout,” which you’ve no doubt heard wedding bands do better.
Buble seemed to take more care with his own material, including the hits “Everything” and “Haven’t Met You Yet.” But he was most at home what seemed to be a Vegas lounge section that included “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You” and, inexplicably, “Heartache Tonight.” At least he didn’t do “YMCA.”
The crowd was adoring, but wasn’t quite pulled into the party atmosphere that Buble repeatedly said he hoped to create. The highlight of the show occurred when Buble took a seat and let his band do a solo number. The crowd, to its credit, cheered just as loudly as they did for their Canadian idol.
P.S.: I know that many of your reading this blog will have found it while Googling Michael Buble. If this is your first time here, welcome. Please add your comments below.