Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
Love For Sale
It’s been five years since Tony Bennett’s initial Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And he has just turned 95. This is his recorded swansong. He chose Lady Gaga to share the bill with him, rekindling their duet-connection from 2014’s Cheek to Cheek. This time around rather than just sing the standards they’ve honed in on Cole Porter for the entire set. You really can’t go wrong there. These are songs that will never let you down, many of them have been part of the backbone of a Bennett live set for decades. And for every Night and Day and Love For Sale and I’ve Got You Under My Skin there’s a Do I Love You, an I Concentrate On You and a So I Love. They’re all songs you know well or recognise at the least but to take in a whole set is to hear the phenomenal quality-control and a few slight tonal shifts. Always charming but more varied than you might at first think.
Gaga knows her role, once again cannot believe her luck and sings for the stars. Nails it. Tony sounds – well – incredible really. As warm as ever and like he’s lived every inch of every song here – and for decades on end. Well, it’s an obvious truth.
I always think of Bennett’s early-90s “comeback” via the MTV Unplugged set. What a masterstroke. At the height of grunge his wily manager-son booked him at Lollapalooza and had him open for bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Tony was hip once again. Forever hip many older fans would have argued. But it worked. And for the last quarter-century he’s lived as a monument to himself; on tour and on record he has worked through his earlier catalogue, reshaped it, resorted it. But there’s always been a sincerity.
And when he was introduced to k.d. Lang as part of that Unplugged set he sought her out to do a full duets record with – something Sinatra, for example, wouldn’t have done. Frank liked to have people kiss the ring. Tony wants to just be part of the show, to share the stage, to extend the hand. So him welcoming Gaga back for a second set of duets is entirely in keeping with his character.
There’s something so very easy-going about this outing, so much so that it feels like a fun wee romp rather than a solemn goodbye. It’s both of course. And that, in the end, is its masterstroke.