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Tony Bennett Strong As Ever For His Hometown Fans at the Theater at Westbury

Tony Bennett Strong As Ever For His Hometown Fans at the Theater at Westbury

Tony Bennett celebrated his milestone 90th birthday last August, and has been celebrating this birthday and his impressive career all year long. Bennett has had his albums on the turntables of his adoring fans since his first No. 1 single, “Because Of You,” in 1951. He is a big believer in giving the fans what they want most, to see him live and in person, and he continuously goes on the road touring and playing sold out shows with no signs of stopping.

Mr. Bennett’s extensive career is not easy to sum up; he has had so many wonderful accomplishments. He was born in Astoria, Queens, NY in 1926; he was brought up in a time of poverty during the Great Depression and lost his father at the tender age of ten years old. But at that same age, his love for singing had begun to blossom and by thirteen he was earning money as a singing waiter in Italian restaurants in his hometown. He learned the value of a dollar at a young age and he gained a very strong work ethic that would continue throughout his life.

With the drive and determination to make it big, he honed his crooner style of singing after artists before him, such as Frank Sinatra. In 1949 he had his first big break when he was asked to be Pearl Bailey’s opening act at a show attended by Bob Hope. Soon after, Hope asked Bennett to join him on the road. However at the time he was still using his full name Anthony Benedetto, it was Hope who had him simplify his name to Tony Bennett and from there history began.

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Bennett’s body of work consists of an impressive fifty-seven studio albums, eleven live albums, thirty-one compilation albums, three video albums, an extended play (EP) and an astonishing eighty-one chart topping singles. With that being said, it is no surprise that he has won nineteen Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, two Emmy Awards, as well as numerous other awards. He has sales of well over fifty million records worldwide. And if you visit the Hollywood Walk Of Fame you will find he has a star there at 1560 Vine Street.

Since 1951, Bennett has stayed consistent with his style of traditional pop standards, big band, and jazz. He has never been one to follow the latest fashions but would always be accepted by the latest trends. He has always kept up with the times while keeping true to himself. In the last several years alone, Bennett has made relevant appearances and recordings with artists such as Billy Joel, Christina Aguilera, Queen Latifah, Carrie Underwood, and Amy Winehouse, just to name a few. But the relationship he formed with Lady Gaga in 2011, as part of the recording on his Duets II collaboration album, is most endearing.

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At home on the road, he travels with his family and his special friend, Happy, his dog. Going from city to city to sing to his fans, the evening of April 14th in Westbury, NY was just a little more special being so close to his hometown. While a majority of his fans packing into the venue were seniors, there were many families filling entire rows of seats and people of all ages throughout. The mood was energetic and chatter could be overheard of songs they were longing to hear Bennett sing this evening as they took their seats.

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The night’s performances started first with two jazz songs played by The Tony Bennett Quartet; Gray Sargent on guitar, Billy Stritch on piano, Marshall Wood on bass, and Harold Jones on drums. The audience loved these songs and cheered after each one was played. Mr. Bennett’s beautiful daughter, Antonia Bennett, then joined them on stage to perform several more songs. After a couple of tunes, including “Always On My Mind,” an Elvis Presley cover, she asked the audience, “How about this band?” which they cheered and clapped away for them.

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She continued with, “It’s nice to be able to play with this great band and to spend time on the road with my dad. I am singing this next song for my dad.”  She sang a heartfelt version of Louis Armstrong’s “You’re A Lucky Guy” and closed out her set with “From This Moment On,” a cover from Frank Sinatra. Before leaving the stage she said, “Thank you so much,” as she blew kisses to the audience; some of her fans could be seen blowing kisses back to her as others were whistling and cheering loudly for her.

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After a brief intermission, The Quartet returned to the stage and began to play a soft jazz tune as the energy in the theater was on the rise. Bennett’s fans knew what was about to happen next and as soon as he was seen coming out and walking down the aisle to the round stage everyone rose to their feet and were screaming with joy. Bennett’s smile was from ear to ear as he looked all around him and waved to everyone. He then extended his arms briefly and then hugged himself as to signify he was hugging all of them, it was a very touching moment that lasted several minutes overall.

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Mr. Bennett then broke into song, his vocals were strong and his smile and positive energy was infectious. His fans were either swaying or clapping to the beat and cheering madly after every song. Bennett not only spent time with the audience during the performance, but he had many intimate moments with his band.

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He would often stand with them as he gave them room to shine and would give them the thumbs up. After performing “I’m Old Fashioned,” Bennett took a moment to say, “The boys and I go to every great country, but it’s great to come back home. I grew up in Astoria.” And the crowd went wild. Later in the show he talked about the hometown feel of this show and added, “To come home and get this kind of reaction from the audience is beautiful, thank you!”

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There were many moments throughout the performance where Bennett would talk to his fans about the songs or just to simple smile and wave to them. There was even a special moment where he walked over to the end of the stage to shake the hand of a young man, who was dressed in a suit and singing to every one of his songs, a man who had the look of an aspiring crooner himself. He really took the time to connect with everyone from the first row to the last. His voice was so strong and he was always in perfect key. At times he would belt out the vocals but there were also times where he would sing as softly as a floating feather; he never missed a moment and shined throughout his performance. Bennett’s tour continues through this year with many dates to come, this is by far one classic performer you do not want to miss the opportunity of seeing live.

See full gallery of the amazing night.

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April 14, 2017 Setlist

1.              Watch What Happens

2.              They All Laughed

3.              This Is All I Ask

4.              I Got Rhythm

5.              (In My) Solitude

6.              I’m Old Fashioned

7.              It Amazes Me

8.              Steppin’ Out With My Baby

9.              But Beautiful

10.          Our Love Is Here to Stay

11.          The Way You Look Tonight

12.          Because of You / Cold Cold / Rags to Riches / Who Can I Turn To

13.          Just in Time

14.          Boulevard of Broken Dreams

15.          The Good Life

16.          How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

17.          The Shadow of Your Smile

18.          One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)

19.          For Once in My Life

20.          I Left My Heart in San Francisco

21.          Who Cares (So Long As You Care for Me)

22.          Smile

https://tonybennett.com/tour.php

Diane Woodcheke has had her eye on a camera viewfinder since she was very young. She specializes in Fine Art, Event and Concert Photography. She is also a writer of concert and album reviews, as well as contributing to blogs. For more information please visit her website at www.dwoodcheke.com

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