Concert special marks Bennett’s musical farewell
When it was announced that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga would share the stage one final time for two performances at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall in August, I don’t think it was expected to be Bennett’s last-ever live performances. The jazz crooner had a run of casino dates from September through December that were rescheduled due to the pandemic. However, they were canceled due to his age and health concerns, according to his son and manager Danny, who also shared earlier this year that the legendary singer had been diagnosed with age related dementia in 2016, but continued to perform and record regularly.
One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga aired on CBS over the weekend and featured the duo performing a slew of jazz standards individually and together. The performance was filmed on Bennett’s 95th birthday on August 3rd to a sold out crowd and was in celebration of the pair’s second collaborative album, Love For Sale, which was released on October 1st via Interscope/Columbia Records. The Cole Porter tribute album is also marked as Bennett’s final recorded project.
The first half of the show features Gaga performing solo selections with her band. Her voice is impeccable and real. Her over the top performances may have defined her as a pop star, but her jazz performances solidify her as a multi-faceted entertainer and wonderful vocalist who isn’t afraid to express herself in other ways.
Midway through the performance, Gaga gave Bennett the ultimate introduction via a drum solo during “The Theme from New York New York.”
“He’s my friend. He’s my musical companion. He’s the greatest singer in the whole world. and I’m counting on you New York to make him smile. So you better cheer, you better yell, you better laugh, you better cry, you better give your soul because…” Gaga said before singing, “it’s up to you New York.”
After a commercial break, Bennett appeared on stage with his own band doing a few solo selections. Age has no boundaries as Bennett yells “Wow!” exuberantly as the crowd cheers loudly. “Thank you very much” he exclaims before singing “Watch What Happens.” He doesn’t seem to have missed any words, something that is expected with dementia.
After a smaller set of solo songs, Gaga reappeared with her band for a “Happy Birthday” singalong. The pair close out the show together with duet performances of “The Lady And The Tramp,” “Love For Sale,” and “Anything Goes.” For the encore, Bennett returned to the stage to perform a solo selection of “I Left My Heart in San Fransisco” with Gaga reappearing to mark the occasion.
“Tony, we’re all so grateful to have witnessed your talent, your generosity, your creativity and your kindness, your service through all the years,” she says as he thanks her. “Mr. Bennett, it would be my honor to escort you off the stage,” she adds before kissing his hand.
The live show featured nearly 30 songs total with each performing 10 as solo numbers before performing duets together. The CBS special was trimmed to an hour, but still gave Bennett the ultimate sendoff during a time when American families are giving thanks, something that should be extended to CBS and Gaga for extending Bennett’s music into the lives of everyone watching.