Michael Bublé is often discredited for being too “middle of the road,” too innocuous and designed to be as appealing as possible for large groups of people. Essentially, another creation of music’s pop machine, designed to keep housewives and adult contemporary listeners happy. Last night at the BOK Center in Tulsa, however, Bublé went to great lengths to prove himself as a performer and vocalist, bringing a two hour performance stocked with pop standards and a few of his own hits for the sold out audience.
I was expecting to hear Bublé deliver songs from the Great American Songbook with his own vocal styling, which he certainly delivered on. What I was not expecting was the amount of jabbering Bublé does with the crowd, always quick with a one-liner or joke to keep the audience cracking up between 50s pop covers. He’s a funny guy, something his fans surely already know, but it took me by surprise at just how risqué his humor was. As someone generally marketed for people who still buy albums as Christmas gifts, he had no problem firing off dick jokes and making slurping noises while talking about creepers looking for threesomes at his show. Delivered with a smile and a warm laugh, Bublé remains charming even when talking about how one of his band members must be a Subway employee, because he just turned [Michael’s] six-inch into a footlong. Bravo for the cheap (still funny) wiener jokes.
Musically, Bublé’s voice sounded precisely as it does on record. A cover of Feeling Good was goosebump inducing, while I’ve Got The World On a String showed off Bublé’s impeccable timing. Where the concert really shined was Bublé’s large backing band, rounded out by a full brass section and a string group hand picked by Michael straight from Oklahoma for the evening. The brass and string players typically switched out as needed, but both helped to round out Michael and the rest of his standard band (piano, drums, guitar and bass). Even those who claim to find Bublé’s takes on pop standards boring have trouble attempting to discredit his voice, and fans who come out to see the show should be excited about hearing him deliver in a live setting. While I never got a chance to see Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darin live, I have a feeling Bublé is definitely the closest thing out there touring today.
Michael himself was far more engaging than I would have ever assumed prior to the concert, talking to individuals in the audience and even hopping down off the stage to hug an older woman who claimed to have followed him around for “15,000 miles” and at least 8 shows on his current tour. It’s not hard to see how and why Michael has won over his (largely female) audience.
On a visual level, the show was exciting, with moving parts, a huge screen behind the band and lots of neon everywhere. For a surprising cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, Bublé ran through the audience to a neon-covered b-stage at the back of the arena, giving those in the “cheap” seats a chance to see him a bit closer. Get Lucky was followed by an a capella version of the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, which found opening act Naturally 7 joining Bublé on the b-stage. He ran back to the stage during a cover of the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love which then morphed into Elvis’ Burning Love. It was a whirlwind of a show, and even when Michael was performing slower ballads the show still seemed to move briskly.
Perhaps my favorite highlight of the evening was encore opener Cry Me A River, which found Bublé giving perhaps his best vocal performance of the evening. From his own material, Haven’t Met You Yet had perhaps the best reaction from the crowd, but Bublé’s introduction of Everything found him singing the original version of the song he had written at the age of 17 before changing it to the version that invaded pop radio a few years back. While people love his covers, he and his songwriting partner Alan Chang have quite the ability to write the perfect pop song to live forever on an infinite number of rom-com soundtracks. That’s not a knock; they just seem perfectly suited for such a purpose.
While people make poke fun at Bublé or may discredit him for dragging out the skeletons of pop standards, I think anyone who actually attends a show would have trouble not enjoying themselves. It was just a great show, not life changing, not the best thing I’ve ever seen, but a memorable performance by someone who deserves far more credit as a performer than they are given. His music may haunt every retail establishment at Christmas, but take your mom or a pop-loving girlfriend to his show – they’ll love you for it.
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