The spirit of the Rat Pack lived on last week as Michael Buble took the stage at Alltel Arena. From the moment his silhouette appeared behind a bright orange screen to the impressive microphone-less vocals that closed his cover of “Song for You,” Buble had the audience (and the ladies in particular) wrapped around his finger.
Buble first showed a little of that Pack spirit when he addressed the audience after his opening performance of “Feeling Good.” Following some kidding around, including Elvis Presley and President Clinton impersonations, Buble took some time to speak to the men in the audience who had been dragged there by wives or girlfriends.
He impersonated a typical man who had been dragged by his wife to see some “Clay Aiken sh**” (but just stopping short of using the actually profanity). Buble then reassured the men that all he did was “put a little air in the tire and you go home and ride that bike all night long.”
That was but one of the amusing instances where Buble’s breezy repartee with the audience recalled the days of Frank, Dino and Sammy onstage (albeit with a little more risque humor and some PG-rated profanity). The man of the hour also broke the wall between audience and performer when he walked down the aisles and even into the next section up to greet fans and receive hugs and mobbing adoration.
This last bit went on a little too long, and for a moment it seemed as if Buble’s antics might distract from the music. But the focus was drawn back by his cover of Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” as the clear and crisp sound made even the snap of his fingers an integral part of the song.
The power of the music was also in full evidence as his performance of “You Don’t Know Me,” which he dedicated to Ray Charles, saw a middle-aged couple slow dancing in the center aisle.
It wasn’t the only tribute of the night. Johnny Cash received his due as Buble appealed to the males in the audience by heralding the late country legend’s rugged sound and attitude. “If a girl walked up to him with flowers he would have kicked her in the head,” he said before kicking into a brief medley with sections of “Ring of Fire” and “Walk the Line.” Somehow the Cash tribute morphed into a Michael Jackson homage, and Buble’s brief crotch grabbing performance of “Billie Jean” garnered one of the night’s loudest responses.
It was not all clowning around for the night, however, and Buble dedicated his performance of the song “Home,” which he co-wrote, to armed forces overseas. Of current issues and conflicts in particular Buble, though admitting he had very strong political opinions, said actors and musicians such as he should “shut the hell up about their beliefs.”
Despite a detour into seriousness, it was Buble the devilishly charming and clever entertainer that the Arkansas audience will remember, a Buble that is welcome to return any time.
Opening act Jann Arden put on a strong performance, especially considering she was accompanied only by a percussionist and additional guitarist. By the time she played her mid-’90s hit “Insensitive” many in the audience must have had “oh yeah” moments when they realized exactly who she was. Although her music is miles away from the jazzy stylings of Buble, it was a welcome surprise to hear a musician who has slipped under the radar after her big hit.
— Stewart Deere