Review of Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga concert

Music industry insider Victoria Wyatt reviews the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga concert at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia on 15 July.

What do you get when you combine the four magical ingredients of one of the prettiest cities in Italy, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett and a perfect summer evening? Well, magic of course.

The duo may be decades apart in age, but both are currently at the top of their game, and last night's concert in the open-air mini Arena S. Giuliana in Perugia, will surely go down as one of the highlights from Umbria Jazz 2015.

The almost two-hour set was packed with jazz standards that the two performed alternatively as vocal duets and solo artists. High ticket prices may have kept many of Gaga's “Little Monsters” away but enough fans had made it into the cheap seats at the back to provide a fun atmosphere and start the occasional chant... mostly for Gaga, but once resoundingly for Bennett, which turned the 84-year-old a wonderful shade of chuffed.

Whether you love or hate Gaga, you have to admit the girl has chops, and strutting into this world of jazz standards that is oft followed by purists is a brave move that she takes firmly on her shoulders, but even complete afficianados would be hard pressed to be anything but completely impressed with her performances on this 36-date tour.

The beauty of this pairing is the love and respect shown for each other on stage. Bennett's voice rings almost as strong and true as ever, with only a little visible effort, and Gaga's vocals are wonderfully strong and yet not overpowering. One gets the idea that we are watching the Tony Show, and Gaga is merely a very special guest. At one stage Gaga voiced the question on many people's lips, asking what we thought she was doing singing jazz. However all it took was watching a few numbers and you knew that in fact she embodies jazz, and hearing her sing these standards actually showcased the nuances and subtleties in her vocal range a lot more than her “normal” original tracks do.

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The Arena shows at Umbria Jazz attract a mostly educated (well versed/educated in music not schooling – or actually probably both) crowd, so watching a live show without looking through a sea of cameras and jostling is not only refreshing but a perfect setting for a glittering spectacle like this.

Bennett wore a fancy white suit throughout, while Gaga had numerous costume changes inspired by vintage Hollywood glam, with just the right amount of the noughties twist of various cutouts and layers revealing more than a glimpse of boobs and/or bum on occasion. Feathers, sequins, very large wigs and even a tux with a t-shirt sporting a young Tony Bennett on the front provided enough spice to keep the Little Monsters happy, while keeping the glamour level high for the older crowd.

The set opened with Anything Goes and ended with encores of The Lady is a Tramp and It Don't Mean a Thing (If it aint got that swing) and was packed with 32 more beloved, iconic numbers in between. Gaga's version of Edith Piaf's La Vie en Rose may not have been en pointe with the French lyrics, but was wonderfully stirring nonetheless.

The beauty of hearing tracks that everyone for the last 50 years has grown up with is magic... they just don't write lyrics like they used to... and matched with the allure of these two very different but stunningly charming artists who have brought these old favourites to life....this gig can be wrapped up in one word. Magic.

Victoria Wyatt

Ph. La Repubblica