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Michael Bublé At Madison Square Garden, Monday, July 7th, 2014, Reviewed

Michael Buble: Middle Aged College kid

Michael Buble: Middle Aged College kid

There are reasons why Michael Buble is the biggest cabaret star in the works: he wears a tux well,he pushes classic rock and soul with the same fervor as the American Songbook, he’s a funny charmer. But it soon becomes very clear that the man is a lightweight.

I mean as the ancestor of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, even Tony Bennett, there is no center of gravity to the Canadian superstar; Buble mostly exudes a sort of “Can you believe I’m doing this” smirk behind the smile.

At Madison Square Garden, on the, gasp, 114th night of his “To Be Loved” tour, Buble lead a full orchestra and occasional string section on a wild trip to catch it’s own tail. There is a sense in which “Moondance” following “You Make Me Feel So Young” works but it isn’t on an emotional level. Much later Buble would segue from “All You Need Is Love” to “Burnin’ Love” and while both songs are given a sturdy work out, it’s silly and lukewarm.

If Buble wasn’t such a charmer he would crash and burn, but he is funny and self deprecating, he realizes at the end of an off color comment there is an eleven year old boy standing  at the front of the stage and breaks out laughin; in a funny piece of business he disses his backing band with this classic line, “They’re like a slinky, they don’t do much but it is fun to push them downstairs.”, he calls out his Grandpa in the middle of the orchestra, officiates at a wedding proposal, and gives bad advise as to how to film the show on your cellphone.  Buble, not really surprising for a singer right, is all about his timing and his timing is immaculate. His phrasing professional. His ease and affection for the audience a master class. But he is too nasal as a singer, and he sounds too young for heavy duty Gershwin, Porter, like that. And OK, youth is youth, but he isn’t really all that young. Married with a son to his name, Buble should be past this giddy school boy. If you wanna play with the big boys, you gotta act like a big boy. Buble is 38 years old,  Van Morrison was 25 years old when he recorded Buble’s beloved (he covers two songs off it) Moondance, when Frank Sinatra was 38 years old he recorded Songs For Young Lovers, and followed it with Swing Easy, In The Wee Small Hours and Songs For Swingin’ Lovers.

Throughout his two hour set, Buble keeps on failing to raise his game to a higher level. I saw Buble at MSG in 2010, loved him as well, but he hasn’t improved in the slightest. Everything is OK, the “To Love Somebody” is very good, the “I Want You Back” performed with the immensely annoying and self-satisfied opening a capella act Natural Seven, isn’t very good, and one song earlier, “Who’s Loving You” is worse.

You don’t have to be grave to be deep, listen to Sam Cooke’s version of “Try A Little Tenderness” and see how the deepest of emotions can have bouyancy, but Buble portrays buoyancy the same way he dances: by jumping on the tips of his toes and laughing. I am not sure if Buble is a bad dancer, I was convinced he was terrible, and nobody would mistake him for Davis jr let alone Michael Jackson, but he proved for a fleeting moment that he actually could dance so all the skipping and sliding across the floor might just be sctick. But for sure, he can’t give a song something it doesn’t have. we take Buble because there is not nothing better, there is NOTHING ELSE.

Oddly, the best moments were the four originals.  His “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” was a fast antidote to a whatever “Fever” at the start of the evening and his song before the encore “It’s A Beautiful Day” brought the set to a proper close. Perhaps better than either, the early “Everything” with Michael singing the earliest version written when he was 17 years old, before launching into an impossibly fresh classic take, and even the latest single “Close Your Eyes” sounds better in person, with his co-writer Alan Chang on piano and Buble teasing him mercilessly.

The problem here isn’t that the audience doesn’t love him, they do (I’ve had several friends tell me how much they admired the show), were enraptured by him, but that the audience doesn’t know Fred Astaire, Mel Torme, Bing Crosby: the men who wrote the template for Modern Cabaret. It sounds great because they haven’t really known the real thing . Buble is sophomoric, his singing is sophomoric, he is the King of the smirk. As far as he goes, as dynamic as his singing is, it is all surface tension.

But he is an Arena act, and he knows how to play an audience and he knows how to sing and when starving for good clean (or at worse off color) entertainment, he will do.

Grade: B



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