Last Night: Michael Bolton At Jones Hall

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Michael Bolton with the Houston Symphony Jones Hall September 8, 2010

It was a little over a year ago that Aftermath saw Yanni, and just a few months back that we saw Kenny G. Wednesday night we saw Michael Bolton, forming a power-trio of artists that you're not supposed to see willingly, or at least without the presence of an elderly family member.

One created a spectacle, the other is a consummate musician and the last has a voice that doesn't get any respect. Except from the aforementioned subset of oldsters.

While we are at it, Aftermath can now admit we no longer have a "cup of tea" when it comes to who and what we will cover. We threw that out on the middle of Highyway 71 while we booked it from South by Southwest to cover Justin Bieber at RodeoHouston.

Like the other two artists, we are all told at an early age that Michael Bolton sucks, and like the other two, creates a sort of pop-culture short-hand for said suckage. True, his David Koresh hairdo in the beginning didn't help matters for most people either.

The fact is that Bolton has a solid damn voice, which can't be disputed. Just ask the 53 million people who own his albums. So if he sucks so bad, like Generation X has told our Generation Y for the past two decades, why is he playing Jones Hall and not a part of a jazz-brunch duo at a steakhouse in Oceanside, Calif.?

Bolton's voice was so sturdy Wednesday that during "How Can We Be Lovers," Aftermath kind of wondered what it would have been like it if he had been a power-metal singer. You know, like Bruce Dickinson or Ronnie James Dio.

We deduce that one genre blows out your voice and is paved with cocaine, while the other pays a lot better, you get to meet Luciano Pavarotti and you won't be wearing a codpiece at 57. And we may be a dumbass twentysomething, but swear to God, he sounds like Chris Cornell at times.

Backed by the Houston Symphony Orchestra and a seven-piece pop band, the newly anointed Dancing With The Stars contestant started his set with the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," playing an acoustic guitar on the Gibb-penned track before throwing it off for "Said I Loved You (But I Lied)."

That's about the time the Bolton that everyone is supposed to revile came out - the dramatic crooner, the one your mother listens to on cassette while cuddling in a bubble bath with lit candles. Deal with it, life is not going to get any less strange. He's Neil Diamond before irony and Quentin Tarantino.

In came in the "vintage" part of the set, with Bolton making good use of the HSO for a set of Sinatra and Ray Charles cuts, a stab at "Summertime" and culminating with the aria "Nessun Dorma." During that aria, we stepped back and said, "Well, obviously he knows what he is doing here," and it all clicked. Hacks can't do arias in the middle of a big-band set.

"When a Man Loves a Woman" had the friskier couples in the crowd leaning back for love. The music swelled and his backing band settled into a groove, with his female backing singers doing that contractually-obligated sway.

His first hit, "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You," closed the night with the HSO taking their leave, with just Bolton and a pianist left onstage.

It was then that we realized we just spent an hour and half with Michael Bolton and it didn't feel so bad. There are worse ways to spend a night, and now we at least have an appreciation of the guy live. And to think 15 years ago, we drew a moustache on our mother's copy of Time, Love & Tenderness.

Personal Bias: Crooners of any caliber are a rarity, so when we can see one, we go.

The Crowd: Your junior music teacher, Grandma's friend from Curves, twentysomethings on dates, middle-aged husbands paying dearly for that foolish promise to take his wife to "any concert she wanted" in exchange for blowing a grand on Texans tickets behind her back.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I heard he dated all the Desperate Housewives at once."

Random Notebook Dump: The Houston Symphony Orchestra deserves to be heard by everyone in Houston. We left with so many questions about how an orchestra works that we felt like a kid again.

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