Tony Bennett is a man of a thousand voices. Thursday night at the Patriot Center, the veteran vocalist seemed to shift his phrasing and tone on every line. One moment he'd be a rumbling baritone; the next he'd be a silky tenor. A raspy growl would be followed by a whispered confidence followed by a booming belt.
Performing with both a small combo and a big band, Bennett skillfully applied this vocal palette to put his stamp on a wide range of standards. Bennett showed off his jazz credentials with a freewheeling scat solo on George Gershwin's "The Man I Love," with drawn-out phrasing on Richard Rodgers' "My Funny Valentine" and with dramatic wistfulness on Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." The show's only flaws were Bennett's weak choices of modern material and his tendency to give every song a big, overstated climax.
Rosemary Clooney preceded Bennett with a solid set of standards. Her big, brassy voice was in fine form, and she delivered the lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart with a relaxed friendliness and a sassy sense of humor.
The 17-piece Artie Shaw Orchestra swung smartly but seemed a bit sluggish when it opened the show with its own tunes. The 75-year-old Shaw conducted each number, but left his old clarinet solos to Dick Johnson.
The show went on despite a line of AFL-CIO pickets outside asking people to boycott the nonunion hall. A black curtain behind the stage reduced the cavernous basketball arena to a more reasonable semicircular theater.