When it was announced that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga would release a collaborative album, the obvious thought was “what an odd pair.” When Cheek To Cheek came out, it was a surprise of the best nature — a beautifully-crafted, precisely sung jazz duet. The pair seamlessly carried over their partnership to the stage of Meadow Brook Music Festival this past Monday.
There was no opening, just some smooth tunes playing over the speakers and just after 8:30 p.m. the duo took the stage. Tony sporting a light blue suit jacket and Gaga sheathed in a shimmering silver gown. They open their sets with the booming “Anything Goes.” It’s hard not to notice the chemistry between the two. They produce an aura of true friendship and genuine appreciation. They ecstatically introduce one another; “Lady Gaga!” Bennett shouts as he waves his arm towards her; she does the same. As he sang, she stood next to him with her hand on his shoulder tapping to the beat. They quickly move into title track “Cheek to Cheek,” during which they dance, quite literally, cheek to cheek. Then Gaga heads off stage and Bennett goes solo for “They All Laughed.”
The stage, set up much like a dueling piano bar, had two nearly complete bands. Bennett’s on the left and Gaga’s on the right. When Bennett took the stage alone, his band was illuminated in lights while Gaga’s sat patiently in the dark, and vice versa. And when they met for duets, both bands became fully engaged.
Bennett maintained his light blue suit-coat throughout the evening, while Gaga rocked several outfits. Ranging from a pale pink gown with an enlarged bow, to a silver studded leotard paired with a sheer shawl. Her attire, while at points revealing, never once overshadowed the jazz. Conversely, her sleek appearance seemed to only escalate the essence of seduction found in jazz.
The two superstars whisked their way through nearly 3 dozen songs over the course of their 95-minute set, each taking solos and coming together when the song required it. Vocally, both were stunning. Bennett, even with age, has kept every ounce of power and finesse. Gaga, often thought of as an auto-tuned pop star, is probably one of the best technical singers of our generation — she received a standing ovation following her take on Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose,” during which she sang perfect French. Bennett also had a handful of standing ovations from the diverse crowd.
It was unlike any concert I’ve attended before. I sat the entire time, which is a far cry from my typical standing and dancing persona. However, as I sat there leaned over, attempting to get as close to the show as possible I found myself mesmerized. This music, it felt pure. I could hear the bass, and I could see the bassist singular strums. I could hear every inflection in either performers voice. It didn’t have all the pizzazz of a typical 2015 concert because the music did all of that on its own.
By the time the duo slipped into their final song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” the crowd still wanted more. Not because we weren’t given enough, but because with a show that simplistically stunning, you can watch for hours. You can listen for hours.