In concert, there are two sides to Michael Bublé.
The predictable side is the one that — in rich, full, velvety tones — belts out (mostly) covers of tunes by Frank Sinatra, by Van Morrison, stuff out of the Great American Songbook.
And then there’s the side of the Canadian crooner that begs you to laugh at that predictable side.
For almost his entire two-hour set Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, Bublé kept his tuxedo jacket buttoned and his collar tight. But the 38-year-old never stayed serious for long.
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He sang his beautiful (original) 2005 song “Home,” then said, “If I sing another ballad, I’m gonna cut myself in front of you.”
He sang “Feeling Good” — originally written for the 1964 Broadway musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd” — then said, “I like it because when it starts, I get to make a sexy face.”
During one stretch just two songs into the show, Bublé became a stand-up comedian for nearly 10 full minutes. He cracked wise about Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson and a woman holding a sign saying she’d been to eight of his shows (“Oh, you crazy b----). He serenaded a couple celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary with the chorus from “Me and Mrs. Jones” — a cover of a 1972 Billy Paul song about a cheating husband.
Someone handed him a Charlotte Bobcats jersey clearly intended for a very small child. His response: “I guess it’s the thought that counts, ’cause this s--- will never fit.” (Bublé then acknowledged his son Noah, born just 2 months ago with his wife, Argentinian actress Luisana Lopilato.)
The crowd roared. It was easy to forget we were here for the music. And yet there was plenty, most of it was originally made popular by other artists: He sang 24 songs in all; 19 of them were covers.
Bublé was backed by a horn-heavy 13-piece band and a gigantic high-definition screen, which cast images of everything from couples in the crowd kissing (during his rendition of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”) to a James-Bond-opening-title-sequence-like montage during a covers of “Cry Me a River” (originally sung by Julie London in 1953).
For three songs — including Nat King Cole’s “That’s All” and the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” — he was joined by an eight-piece female string section made up of entire of regional musicians, including players from Charleston and Atlanta.
His reliance on recycled music actually made his original stuff stand out. Both “Haven’t Met You Yet” and “Everything” felt as jaunty, bouncy and upbeat as ever; smooth, heartfelt ballad “Home” was enhanced by black-and-white video portraits cast onto the big screen of couples, familes and friends showing affection for one another.
Affection was a big theme, in fact. He wound up hugging the superfan (the one who claimed to have been to eight of his shows). He hugged the mother of one of the local female cellists, whom he invited on stage after spotting her holding a sign that read: “My daughter is your cellist.” He waded into the floor section for high-fives and fist bumps multiple times, including during megahit “Save the Last Dance.”
At one point, he encouraged couples in the crowd to snuggle, then jokingly encouraged singles to hook up with them for a threesome.
But the guy can sing. And there was no better proof than when he dropped the mic during the closer — Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” — and sang a capella. Somehow, his voice still boomed as it projected through the arena in an astonishing display of power.
That, folks, is no joke.