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Michael Buble At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, February 21st, 2019, Reviewed

At Madison Square Garden last night, Michael Buble referenced Bobby Darin before singing “(Up A) Lazy River,” then wryly noted that Cardi B, mentioned lovingly at the top of evening, got a much louder applaud. He has a point. Darin, a huge star in the late 1950s, early 1960s, and married to teen queen Sandra Dee, died in 1973 at the age of 37, and is now largely lost to us, unless you caught Kevin Spacey’s iffy bio movie. But in a wider sense, watching Michael return to the golden age of US pop once more, at a sold out mecca of music, to an audience who had weathered a snowstorm to be there, there was still a sense wherein Cardi B chirping was reality and these songs were dreams, were being resurrected from another time and place, and despite all his skills and charms, Buble gave an ephemeral performance: light and glossy and passed.

The weightlessness of the Great American Songbook inflicts everybody, it inflicts Lady Gaga.  The closest I’ve seen to a strong feel for the catalog since since Bobby Short’s passing is Nellie McKay, but the Great American Songbook is overplayed and it is nostalgia on nostalgia in ever decreasing echoes. The truth is, if you go back to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise recordings you can already hear it devolving, Every time Frank covered a song from his Columbia years so he could get the royalties on his back catalogs was ( unless he was working with an Antônio Carlos Jobim), never as good. If it is true of Sinatra, and it is true with the wildly overestimated Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga pairing from a few years bad,or Diana Krall, it is true of everyone. Especially the poppy sweetener  Michael Buble.   It has been ten years since his Grammy winning Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden and Bublé hasn’t lost much, or gained anything at all, in that time, half of which he spent in semi-retirement taking care of his son, who had liver cancer and is now in remission. Buble returned to MSG last night, the sixth date of his grand return, and with a 40 piece band, that he effortlessly recombined to a small combo, and a phenomenal stage set with plenty of full length screens so you could see every move clearly, he was at enormous ease in the setting.

So what’s not to like here? Nothing, I liked it, you liked it, Sure an early “My Funny Valentine” was an overdramatic mess (“creepy” he claimed), and yes, he might be charming but he doesn’t do much more than shtick when it comes to talking to an audience (though quite moving once: talking about his late Grandfather). The great songs, “When I Fall In Love,” “When You’re Smiling,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” are not very good; Michael’s voice has character but it is lightweight, listening to him swing through “Such A Night” all it does is remind you of how Presley had the gift of being a swinger and stylist and yet not a minimalist, and Buble doesn’t. These are not specifically good versions at all (much worse is that awful Christmas album that returns to the top of the charts every year). He is better at rockers, “You Never Can Tell” was a little overstuffed and made you miss Johnnie Johnson, and also made you wonder how while Michael namechecked “Pulp Fiction” what the response to Chuck Berry would have been like, “Just A Gigolo” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody” were Van Halen by other means, though again, so what?

The two hour, no opener began at 815pm with a very dramatic “Feeling Good” before the entire night took off with the brilliant “Haven’t Met You Yet” (the best use of “Kid” in a song since, well, since the Pretenders’ “Kid”)  and an original. Every time Michael returned to his own songs the evening improved, late in the evening he doubled up with “Home” and “Nobody But Me” and they were the best moments. The American songbook has been cheapened beyond its ability to withstand it and Michael just doesn’t have the strength to master it, he can’t get the light-dark balancing done correctly. The show is flimsy, not bad, rather the structure can’t withstand its ambitions, he isn’t a big enough presence to move beyond iffy covers of songs we’ve heard too often and performed too casually. If you listened to Sinatra’s 1950s album everything is taut, the ease is a sublime magnification of skill. Buble is skillful as well (he is vastly superior to Lady Gaga), but he can’t tighten up at will, he can do the easy going songs for swinging lovers with a grin but he can’t bring the hammer down on us, he can’t move us the way Bennett, at 92 years of age, can when the mood takes him.

Less a disappointing evening, and maybe a case where if all you have is Buble better Buble than nothing, more a case of a sound and an act that is so overplayed all you can do is wait patiently for it to end.

Grade: B


  1. Iman Lababedi on February 22, 2019 at 6:32 am

    If anybody left a comment and don’t see it hear, please resend. We were migrating to a new server and they were drooped. Thanks -IL

  2. Roberta on February 22, 2019 at 8:54 am

    You come off jealous….

  3. Kay on February 23, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Clearly, you have ZERO taste in music and even less ability to know good performances and excellent performers. You stick to Cardi B and the other crap out there today… your generation deserves it. Ps… learn to proofread or pay your Mom to do it. Your ignorance shows in your lack of writing skills, as well.

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