The versatile crooner left the audience asking, “How does he do it?”
If you think you know Michael Bublé, but have never seen him live, you do not know him at all.
Bublé himself joked about those presumptions about midway through his set Monday night (Aug 29th) at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. Poking fun at his Bing Crosby-like image, he said, “You thought you were coming to hear a guy go ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” to raucous laughter. “That’s not what we do at all!” he corrected.
Indeed, a live concert by Bublé is a bundle of contradictions. Bublé is known has vocal tone that oozes sincerity in every stanza. Yet, when talking to the audience, he was continually self-effacing. “You probably think celebrities are down to earth and just like you,” he opined two songs into the evening. “And for the most part, that’s true, but I’m an asshole,” he joked while describing doing crowd vamps in front of a mirror at home during COVID. The guy who wrote “Home” is an asshole? Who curses? And says asshole? This was news.
Perhaps that dichotomy is the secret to Bublé’s success. After all, he has made the Great American Songbook cool again. This was prevalent on every standard he performed this evening. He had the guts to add an electric guitar riff to the Dean Martin classic, “Sway.” “When You’re Smiling” had an infectious bass drum oomph behind it. And “Bring it On Home” was a true religious moment. How does he do it?
The two hour set flew by as Bublé, backed by a traveling orchestra with members numbering in the dozens, danced about a slanted rectangular set. The classy “MB” logo bandstands, pearly white curtains, and shimmering projections gave the feel that the crooner and company were playing inside a massive music box.
Throughout the night, Bublé interacted with the crowd on a personal level. He called out signs and sang happy birthday to a fan. He told people (men and women) they looked “Beautiful” while making direct eye contact. Plus, he threw on a Washington Capitals jersey over his perfectly-fitted suit at the end of the night. It was signed and gifted to him by retired Caps hockey player and fellow Canadian Karl Alzner. Alzner tossed his #27 game-worn jersey to the stage from the floor.
It is rare for an act to fill a stage with their own orchestra — the expense alone can be astronomical. But Bublé proudly tours with a caravan of musicians, a conductor, and background vocalists. Oh, and there’s a six-piece regular band at the front. Another innovation: surround sound. Every time Bublé ventured onto the catwalk, the sound shifted from the gigantic speakers on either side of the orchestra, to a ring of speakers above the outer platform. While the execution was at times clunky, its purpose was clear and successful: to make the 20,000 seat arena in the heart of DC’s Chinatown as intimate as possible.
Bublé is currently on his Higher Tour, promoting the album of the same name. The title track off the album is arguably his most aggressively upbeat tune yet. And somehow, it still fits his style of straddling between sexy pop star and Sinatra standard bearer. Other original hits present. “Feeling Good” opened the show. “Everything” was as joyous as ever. It was as if, after a long COVID delay, Bublé was saying to his fanbase that they are truly his everything. He dug far back into his catalogue for his first big hit, “I’ll Never Stop Loving You,” while running into the crowd to let his young children sing a verse. It was a sweet moment.
Before performing the song arguably most synonymous with his own career, “Home,” Bublé instead chose to thank someone for covering it. While earnestly dedicating the song to America’s military, he also said, “I’d like to dedicate this song to Blake Shelton who covered it and made me so much money.” Very big laugh one second. A piano riff, and pure sentimentality the next. How. Does. He. Do. it?
Towards the end of the night, Bublé decided to use the success of his posthumous duet with Elvis on “Fever” to segue into an Elvis medley that culminated with “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” It earned the biggest ovation of the night.
Original songwriter. Standards crooner. Gut-wrenchingly funny with self-effacing humor. And now, he can effortlessly pull off The King? How does Michael Bublé do it? Asshole. 😉