Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion April 24, 2015
Lady Gaga's theatrics nearly bankrupted her, and Tony Bennett is hardly a household name anymore, at least not with millennials. With that in mind, it's hard not to regard their collaborative album Cheek to Cheek as a calculated attempt by Interscope and Columbia Records to revive both artists' careers and not much else. On paper, that much seems clear.
In practice, however, Gaga and Bennett's duets radiate authenticity. A single listen to any of the tunes they recorded together is enough to quell the doubts of any naysayers. On Friday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, the two artists also exhibited an affinity for each other that would be difficult to feign.
Forgoing an opening act, Bennett and Gaga instead took to the stage at 8:15 pm, fairly early for a headlining act at the Pavilion. They alternated between duets and solos, performing for nearly two hours as their respective fanbases gawked at one another and cheered for the artists onstage.
The crowd looked to be an even split between fans of both artists, and they competed with one another for much of the evening. After a cover of Frank Sinatra's "For Once in My Life," the legendary crooner received a standing ovation. A few songs later, Gaga's fans cheered even louder and rose to their feet even faster after she sang a beautiful rendition of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)."
"I want every one of you to buy that record," Bennett said of Cheek halfway through the show, adding with a grin, "because she (Gaga) really needs the money."
Despite the competition in the stands, Bennett and Gaga were nothing but affectionate toward each other all night long. Bennett would stand quietly, a broad smile across his face as he listened to her sing. And Gaga doted on Bennett in return, lovingly hanging her arm through his and dancing with him whenever the music had enough swing.
"After all these years, he's still so passionate and his life is so fruitful," Gaga said of Bennett, her presumed mentor. "And he's a reminder that life is really long," she added with a laugh.
Both artists were parallels to their fan bases -- Bennett was dressed respectably albeit modestly and understatedly in a yellow jacket and black slacks; Gaga, meanwhile, wore a bevy of different outfits throughout the evening, changing roughly every two songs into louder and ever more outlandish getups.
By the end of the show, Bennett fans were cheering for Gaga and vice versa. So yes, the marketing tactic was successful. But for such an entertaining concert, one that proved Gaga's abilities beyond a doubt and brought the great Tony Bennett to town...Well, scheme or not, no one seemed to mind Friday night.
Personal Bias: Gaga has always interested me, and Bennett is...well, he's Tony Bennett. Before Friday, I hadn't seen either of them perform live.
Random Notebook Dump: When Bennett brought his dog Happy out onstage to wave good-bye to the crowd, the audience's collective awww-ing was almost as loud as their cheering.
The Crowd: Eye-opening.
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