Here's the review of the show -- and be sure to check the photo gallery, too.
By David Menconi
RALEIGH -- It's easy enough to think of Michael Buble as a modern-day Frank Sinatra, given their mutual love for the Great American Songbook. But watching him onstage brings a different crooning elder song stylist to mind: Tony Bennett. Like Bennett, Buble has a self-deprecating impish streak and a so-square-he's-kinda-cool vibe. Most of all, Buble and Bennett are both examples of broad, consensus, multi-generational popularity that cuts across a wide swath of the mainstream.
That sort of thing never goes out of style, although it rarely gets as enormous as Buble has made it. Friday night at a packed RBC Center, Buble served up a timeless set of mostly interpretive songs that presented a half-century of popular music as a single continuum. Van Morrison, the Eagles, Bobby Darin, Ben E. King -- it's all just pop music, baby, and he really can sing anything.
The show commenced with 40 minutes from Naturally 7, a seven-piece a capella group that takes Bobby McFerrin's human-body-as-musical-instrument aesthetic to stunning new levels. Using just their voices, the crew duplicated the sounds of drums, bass, horns, keyboards, harmonica, guitar and even turntable scratching. If you'd closed your eyes during the cover of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," you'd have sworn somebody was playing a solo on six strings.
Buble's headlining set opened in dramatic fashion from behind a curtain, with Buble's very sharp 13-piece band pumping away on a version of "Cry Me a River" that was done up like a menacing "James Bond" movie theme. And if anyone had any doubts about Buble's vocal prowess, he settled that right away. Dude's got voice; he handled every song pretty much flawlessly and with impressive power and range. Buble even sang part of the encore-closing cover of Leon Russell's "A Song For You" unamplified, and his voice carried remarkably well.
A couple of songs in, Buble did a comedic monologue that was surprisingly salty, with a couple of F-bombs and flip-offs (although they were so good-natured, it was hard to imagine anybody taking offense). He made the obligatory local references, including Crabtree Valley Mall and Clay Aiken, and he also poked fun at his own non-masculine image.
The show was immensely likable, and occasionally even transcendent. Buble staked a very worthy claim to Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind." And in explaining Michael Jackson's influence on him, he busted out a verse of "Billie Jean" that was perfect enough to inspire chills -- it really was that good.
Other highlights included "Home," with snippets of Lynyrd Skynyrd ("Free Bird") and Poison ("Every Rose Has Its Thorn") thrown in; Billy Vera's torch-song weeper "At This Moment"; the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight," recast as a big-band workout with brass blaring away; and Buble's own hit "Haven't Met You Yet."
"I'll keep coming back a million times, if you'll have me," an appreciative Buble said at the end. It looked like there were about 12,000 takers.
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