fri 10/04/2020

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live, BBC One

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live, BBC One

Musical novelty act just about justifies an hour's featherweight entertainment

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett: rainbow-tinted froth

It’s never a good start when the performers have more to gain than the audience. The album Cheek to Cheek, of which this was a televised performance, came out in September to a respectfully reserved reception in UK, while American critics, seemingly more demanding of originality, gave it a vigorous pasting.

It’s never a good start when the performers have more to gain than the audience. The album Cheek to Cheek, of which this was a televised performance, came out in September to a respectfully reserved reception in UK, while American critics, seemingly more demanding of originality, gave it a vigorous pasting. Musically, it has as much substance, and as many holes, as one of Gaga’s dresses, but the novelty of the concept, if not the interpretations, is just sufficient to see the hour’s show out.

Waggish critics have suggested that the old trick of yoking of one stale, flagging career to another more vigorous and fertile has taken a strange turn here, as the octogenarian crooner, whose sales are in ruddy, platinum-selling health, helps out the young but fading diva. In fact, both have reached new audiences with this project, and had a handy flash of the media spotlight, though it’s doubtful either will benefit greatly from the other’s fans.

A more serious incompatibility emerges when the pair starts singing, however. At 88, Bennett has understandably lost the effortless, honeyed legato of crooning legend; his timing and phrasing are still impeccable, of course, but extended crescendi are now to be feared rather than savoured. His solo of “Sophisticated Lady” had an unpleasantly scrawny, amphibian quality to it, and his repertoire must become increasingly limited to snatches of dialogue, like those he shares with Gaga in the duets.

The arrangements are of the plushest velvet, and the 39-piece band can purr sumptuously

Gaga, meanwhile, is prone to boom when she should be caressing the vocal line, and easily overpowers Bennett, though overall she probably comes out better from the exposure to unfamiliar material, showing that she can hold a tune and add dynamics without electronic assistance. Great though the American songbook undoubtedly is, even its most durable standards are suffering from over-exposure these days, and when such familiar numbers are parped out by such an unbalanced duo, it probably doesn’t mean a thing even if it does have that swing. The arrangements, however, are of the plushest velvet, and the 39-piece band can purr sumptuously.

Of course, with such a dedicated performer as Lady Gaga, there’s some visual interest in a televised performance, though the endless changes of outfit must have played havoc with the live show. The first two, an am-dram Cleopatra costume, and a shapeless, spangly piece of fabric, like a child’s map of the solar system, are terrible. They improve, however, and there’s some broad enjoyment to be had in the pair’s onstage rapport, somewhere between flirtation and a grandfather’s kindly indulgence of a wayward girl. Bennett, a veteran equal-rights campaigner of unstaunching integrity, has lent his support to many more worthwhile causes than Gaga, but the 88 year-old appears delighted by this rainbow-tinted froth. If it amuses him more than it does the audience, he’s earned the break.  

When such familiar numbers are parped out by such an unbalanced duo, it probably doesn’t mean a thing even if it does have that swing

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I watched the programme the other night on DSTV and must admit I was surprised that Gaga could as you say 'hold a tune', especially jazz tunes. I still would rather buy Bennett's albums over Gaga's but after watching this, I would take time to listen to her.

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