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SWAGGER, NOT STYLE

The worldwide headquarters and hindquarters of freelance writer Chris Klimek

Column Itches

Chris Klimek

Today's Paper of Record features my review of nu-Sinatra Michael Bublé's surprisingly groovy show at the Patriot Center Saturday night. Or, if you've got some time on your hands, you can read my original version, which, I am reliably informed, weighed in at a mighty two dozen column inches. Oops.Take it away, Fellas! Gentlemen, your attention, please: You won’t want to hear this, but it’s okay if you don’t hate Michael Bublé. Yes, your wife and/or girlfriend has had at least one of his CDs on repeat since his self-titled debut became a hit in 2003. Yes, your mother calls every time he shows up on “The Today Show.” But on the evidence of his glitzy revue at the Patriot Center Saturday night, he’s after your vote, too, fellas! And thanks to his self-deprecating, consciously Rat Pack-y stage persona, he probably deserves it.

Case in point: Greeting the people of “Virgin-yah,” he said he knew the correct pronunciation, but would stick with his because it sounded more like “a mystical fantasy country I want to go to.” After a rendition of “Fever” that was, well, feverish, he expressed his “sincere appreciation for you, my fans — you should see the house I just bought!” Badda-bing!

Resplendent in a black suit, tie loosened just-so, the 31-year-old Canuck’s evocation of the Chairman, God rest his blued-eyed soul, stopped just shy of punctuating his sentences with, “And you can take that to the bank, Buster!”

The standards-heavy setlist was mostly a series of big-band valentines to the ladies who squealed every time he narrowed his eyes in their direction. The dude may more resemble “Footloose”-era Chris Penn than “Footloose”-era Kevin Bacon, but with charisma like he’s got, the ladies would melt even if he looked like Tom Petty.

Oh, and he can sing a little, too.

Actually, he can sing a ton. It’s rare in this era of “American Idol” bathos to hear a vocalist whose got the range, the control, the — how you say? — chops to pull off the histrionic flourishes Buble deployed early and often during the 95-minute concert. His Shatneresque closed-fist gesticulating looked silly during his opener, Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” because he hadn’t shown yet that he had the pipes to live up to the hype. By the end of the song, nobody was laughing. Not at him, anyway. He makes it look easy, and makes it sound — oh, how it burns to admit this! — spectacular.

Not that the ladies in the house necessarily noticed. Based on the frequent interruptions of “We love you, Michael!,” they appeared to have come more to bask in the star wattage than to listen to him sing.

He didn’t discourage this behavior: When he asked a pair of girls in the front row their ages, and they responded seven and ten, he shot back, “There are pictures of me on the Internet I hope you never see!” Sensing that his hearts and minds campaign was in need of emergency course-correction, he leapt into the audience to pose for snapshots with the girls. Camera-wielding fans immediately surrounded him. He’d broken away when a fortyish woman fairly attacked him, throwing her arms — and other limbs — around his body while her husband (?) clicked away. A beefy security man hovered nearby, but apparently never got the kill sign. When Bublé finally crawled back to the microphone, he quipped, “Virgin-yah my ass.”

At $68 and $88, tickets weren’t cheap, but you could see where the money went. A 13-piece band backed the star, and the raked stage used four vertical projection panels to achive the impossible, turning the charmless, acoustically-frigid bunker that is the Patriot Center into something approximating the Sands Hotel.

About that band: Marvelous! Early on, Bublé turned the spotlight over to them. Feigning jealousy at the rapturous response their hot-jazz instrumental got, he sulked offstage. Trombonist Nick Vayenas leapt up for a hilarious monologue about what an insecure diva his boss is, complete with a too-brief impression of Buble’s jerky dance style. Only when Vayenas began to howl “Try a Little Tenderness” did Buble return.

Further hilarity ensued when the star, pledging to “take this to a manlier level,” gave a quick-but-great unplugged version of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right, Mama,” with the moves Ed Sullivan wouldn’t broadcast. Buble called for the men in the house to asset their authority (“She might have dragged you here, but you are nobody’s bitch!”) just as the band kicked into “YMCA.” He struggled through a few choruses before admitting, “I’m glad I don’t know all the words to this.”

The only lull came when Bublé interrupted the parade of lounge favorites for a pair of tunes he co-wrote with pianist Alan Chang, “Home” and “Everything.” Both sounded ersatz amid all the warhorses, despite (or probably because of) the fact both were No. 1 Adult Contemporary hits.

“That’s Life,” featuring a ten-voice gospel choir, closed the set proper. For his encore, Buble ripped through “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and repeated his seemingly-heartfelt thanks, minus the Krusty-the-Klown-styled line about the new house, before saying goodnight with Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.”

It was a classy, brassy finish to stylish and supremely entertaining evening. The only tacky note was the “MB” logo on the video screens, in lights, and on the back of the music stands. Yo, Mikey! You don’t need to put your name all over the stage. You already showed us who owns it.