Tony Bennett wows TV critics with PBS promo set
How do you keep the critics clapping? If you're Tony Bennett, it's fairly easy -- you just put on a free show.
The 85-year-old music legend showed up at the TV press tour in Pasadena on Thursday night to plug his PBS "Great Performances" special coming later this month. But he didn't bother with a Q&A. Instead he focused on what he does best: Singing.
With a 10-song, 35-minute set, Bennett pretty much had the hardened journos eating out of his hand. For a jaded crowd that typically doesn't applaud anyone -- much to the annoyance of network executives -- the Bennett reception was notable. You could hear the "ahhhs" when he launched into his best-known numbers -- including "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" -- and the critics rewarded him and his four-piece backup band with not just one, but two, standing ovations.
All the famous Bennett gestures so memorably parodied by Alec Baldwin and others -- the jaunty salutes, the thumbs-up signs, the overwhelming positivity -- were on display ("Lady Gaga -- what a wonderful singer she is," he said of his partner on his new, top-charting "Duets II" album). Once, he bobbled a lyric and had to improvise with some scat singing. But his voice remains a powerful instrument for a singer of his years, and Bennett has an uncanny knack for blanketing audiences in warmth. It's charm that not even TV critics can resist.
The entire set list: "Watch What Happens," "They All Laughed," "Maybe This Time," "I Got Rhythm," "The Way You Look Tonight," "The Good Life," "For Once in My Life," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?".
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Tony Bennett wowed the critics at the TV press tour in Pasadena with a 35-minute set. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times