Concert review: Michael Buble makes magic at the St Pete Times Forum (with pics)

In the true style of a flashy nightclub performance, the evening began at 9:05 p.m. with quite the dramatic intro, the drawn curtains showing only silhouettes behind it. A figure appeared that mimicked a conductor leading the band in it's overture. The scene was reminiscent of the orchestra sequences in the 1940 Disney film, Fantasia. The excitement and anticipation from the audience built exactly the way this type of opening was made for -- screams, cheers and howls filled the forum as Buble's unmistakable vocals filled the hall before he slowly emerged from behind the curtain. Single spotlight on a dapper Buble center stage, curtain falls, band dramatically breaks into  the opening number, the classic standard "Cry Me A River." This is [image-1]textbook stuff and the mostly swooning female crowd made their excitement known. From the shrieks, screams, and the occasional red rose delivered to the lip of the stage, it was clear that Michael Buble knows what women want. And he continued to deliver the goods for the next 90 minutes, which flew by all too quickly.


Aside from his ability to flawlessly incorporate material by current artists such as Van Morrison ("Crazy Love") and Stevie Wonder ("For Once In My Life") with standards like "All Of Me" and "Mack The Knife," Buble's talents also lie in his ability to chat and fraternize with his audience. Throughout the night, he spoke of his personal highs and lows, his recent engagement, the debt of gratitude he owes his grandfather (for swapping his professional services as a plumber for auditions and gigs to support his burgeoning singing grandson) and his sincere and heartfelt thanks to all the fans and followers who've made him a bona fide success.


"I dreamed of this moment for a long time," he avowed, "..and it feels great." And in a bid to make himself appear more approachable and human, Buble on several occasions addressed specific members of the audience and made small talk with them. From an 8-year-old little girl in the front row who held a homemade sign suggesting how much she'd like a hug from the man (a wish he gladly obliged after running down to the girl's seat), to a young lady who wore an ear-to-ear grin as she munched on popcorn while watching the performance. "You look so happy!" he giggled. The real connection with the audience was yet to come however. During his rendition of "All I Do Is Dream Of You," Buble, clad in his trademark black suit, white shirt, loose black tie, perfect facial stubble and neatly tousled hair, hopped into the crowd and slowly made his way through one of the aisles to a small stage that awaited him at the rear of the arena. Never missing a note,  a beaming Buble worked his way through an adoring crowd that regaled the chance to be this close to the man of the hour. Clever stunts like this are always sure to go over well with crowds and Buble knows how to work a room. He's adapted his skills as a nightclub singer to the grand scale of an arena. And they're still effective.


[image-2]Showing his age, Buble spoke of some of his major musical influences as a child of the '80s. He revered Michael Jackson as one of his early heroes (and paid homage to MJ by breaking into a short snippet of "Billie Jean" that included some impressive dance moves and a sung verse that almost channeled Jackson), and revealed the huge effect that the 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off had on him. In particular, the scene where Ferris (played by Matthew Broderick ) leads a street parade crowd into a frenzy while lip syncing along to The Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout." And what better way to pay his respects than to lead Saturday's already frenzied crowd into this sing-along too? The very mixed-age crowd all rose from their seats and felt compelled to sing and dance wildly.


Buble's takes on modern pop music didn't always work as effectively; his version of The Eagles' 1979 chart topper "Heartache Tonight" didn't hold the same panache as the other numbers; unfortunately, it sounded forced and a little stale. That lackluster rendition did nothing to sway the crowd from their intense adulation though; at this point, Michael Buble could have sang battle hymns and the crowd would have reacted as ecstatically.


After beach balls had been hoisted into the crowd from the stage, oodles of confetti had been blown down from the rafters and the fever pitch had been reached, it was time to wrap up the evening's performance. An encore that included some impressive vocal gymnastics on his take on Billy Paul's 1972 classic ode to adultery "Me & Mrs. Jones," Buble ended the night with class.  For his closing number, Buble launched into the Leon Russell masterpiece "A Song For You" and although the definitive version of this moving ballad is Donny Hathaway's heartbreaking rendition from 1971, Michael Buble masterfully brought the house down with this final song and achieved the almost inexplicable in doing so; he brought a crowd of 18,000 to complete silence as he sang the final verse without the aid of his microphone. His voice filled every corner of the hall with great clarity and strength.


After Buble elegantly exited the stage,  the houselights came up and the swanky Vegas night club vibe disappeared as the building was transformed back into a hockey arena. A night filled with magic and excitement for all those in attendance was over. And luckily, many got to experience the class and professionalism of performers long gone by through Michael Buble's stellar performance.


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's concert at the St. Pete Times Forum last Saturday night could have, for all intents and purposes, been billed as a magic show; for his first (and most impressive) trick, the young charismatic crooner seamlessly transformed an ordinarily cavernous hockey arena into a cozy Las Vegas-like night club. And while this feat might be easily achievable with the sophisticated array of lights, ambiance and a healthy dose of kitsch, it takes the right type of personality to make it work. Enter Buble: Canada's own golden boy who miraculously melds the genuine likability of vocalist Bobby Darin with the modern day charm of singer/dancer Justin Timberlake. [All photos by Jeff O'Kelley.]

On paper, the idea of a handsome, quirky, vocally gifted mid-30's-aged guy whose repertoire and presentation appeals equally to grandmothers and 'tweens seems too contrived to be true. This would be a smarmy, money-hungry record company exec's dream come true — the guy has all too many attributes that add to his marketability and the idea almost sells itself. But, alas, Buble's story and his climb to the successful heights he's achieved  are hardly the things of legend. The self-admitted dorky teenager, who learned to sing standards via his grandfather's constant influence and his collection of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald records, is living proof that talent, charm and personality will get you far. How else would it be possible for a modern day performer whose act seems more at home at a martini bar to sell out a hockey arena in this day and age? Practice, practice, practice. And Michael Buble's polished personable onstage persona is surely one he rehearsed from his days and a wide-eyed aspiring boy singer.

About The Author

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
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