Tony Bennett earned more than a few standing ovations at Wolf Trap last night, but he was gracious enough to make sure that someone else enjoyed one as well. Midway through the show, after belting out "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," Bennett pointed to the VIP boxes and introduced former hostage Robert Polhill. Once the applause subsided, the singer added a nice touch by repeating the final homecoming verse of his trademark song.
Indeed, the concert was filled with nice touches, including lightly swinging Count Basie-inspired trio arrangements, lush but unobtrusive orchestral settings and first-rate lyrics and melodies by the likes of Johnny Mandel, Duke Ellington, Johnny Green, Gus Kahn, Kurt Weill, Charles DeForest and others.
The last four composers, all represented by songs on Bennett's impressive new album, "Astoria," were frequently part of the evening's varied moods and highlights, ranging from a passionately yearning performance of DeForest's "When Do the Bells Ring for Me" to Kahn's quaint and nostalgic "A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet." Mixed in were "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Rags to Riches" and other old hits, plus a neatly arranged Ellington medley that also displayed Bennett's remarkably untarnished voice and distinctive phrasing.