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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisChances are Tony Bennett will never retire, and considering he still possesses enough vocal chops matched with the personable charm exuded since the early 1950s, why should he? After all the veteran isn't just a legend in the traditional pop and jazz communities, but a true treasure all the world over who's proving to be just as popular in 2012 as he was back in the day.
Just take a look at late last year's CD release "Duets II" (Columbia), an automatic chart topper that also endeared the luminary to younger generations thanks to duets with Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer, Carrie Underwood and many others. Given that extra spurt of momentum, Bennett had no trouble packing out the beautiful confines of Ravinia, not only thrilling the regular wine and cheese crowd, but also a smattering of younger faces that appeared to fall equally in love with the 86-year-old icon.
His set may have clocked in slightly on the short side (just 70 minutes), but there was still plenty to devour, from original hits to standards, all channeled through his signature phrasing and backed by the classy ease of a four piece jazz combo. "Watch What Happens" (a duet on his latest disc with Natalie Cole) kicked off the evening with plenty of toe-tapping rhythms, "I Got Rhythm" served as a spirited hat tip towards the immortal George and Ira Gershwin, while "Maybe This Time" found Bennett hitting an especially dynamic vocal stride.
Though he didn't knock every note out of the park, no one seemed to care (or even notice) the occasional wavering as the set continued to ebb and flow between jazzy gems and grand ballads. Nonetheless, the swinger "Steppin' Out With My Baby" came across exceptionally strong, though it was no surprise the tender-hearted signature song "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" was most rapturously regarded. As Bennett dazzled his way through ageless standards like "Smile," "When You're Smiling" and the evening's closing serenade "Fly Me To The Moon," slowing down didn't even appear to be on the radar screen, but rather, keeping the bygone era burning bright for as long as he'd like.
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