Las Vegas may want a commitment from Michael Buble, but it will settle for a one-night stand.
The Canadian crooner packages classic-Vegas style and charm for the rest of the world, and right now it’s hard to fault him for doing it in arenas.
Much of his touring show played like a made-for-Vegas “residency,” with all the giant-screen pomp of Celine or Elton at Caesars Palace. But Buble would have to do three shows there to post the same numbers he did in one night Saturday, where he packed the MGM Grand Garden with (by his count anyway) 12,500 people.
Besides, he seems a little passive-aggressive about Las Vegas.
“It’s so nice to play for so many people not from Vegas. So many of you are not fans. So many of you are comped tickets,” he said in the first dose of surprisingly barbed humor, the kind only such a cute, nice guy could get away with.
Buble’s tux may be retro, but the “To Be Loved” tour was very much a rock-star arena product.
King-sized bursts of flames heralded the show-opening “Fever.” An all-female string section coasted in on a moving riser exactly when needed. A section of the floor rose up to become moving video panels, visual dazzle Nina Simone likely never imagined when she sang “Feeling Good.”
And a few songs moved the action to an oval track on the back of the arena floor, a considerate rock-show treat for fans in back usually budgeted only for the likes of U2 or the Rolling Stones.
At the heart of it though is an old-school entertainer. The 38-year-old is pop’s anti-Bieber. The cross-generational appeal of a well-behaved gent in the Miley Cyrus era was evident from the insane response to his Justin Bieber jokes; another dose of mildly cutting humor escaping from a baby face.
Buble’s original hits such as “Home” have moved him beyond a Frank Sinatra wannabe, though his 13-piece band still introduced the crooner aesthetic to new generations with Sinatra-era classics such as “You Make Me Feel So Young” and “That’s All.”
But it’s good that he no longer lives there, for it’s not where his heart seems to be. “If I sing another ballad, I will cut myself,” he announced before launching into Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
While he’s a fine singer, Buble still doesn’t have the distinct phrasing or that way of making you listen to the words like the legends who defined those songs. His voice is more of a one-size-fits-all approach, regardless of the song.
Better that he continues to reimagine newer standards the way they would have been done in the Sinatra era, from the snap-cool of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” to the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” sung with the a cappella group Naturally 7, which also opened the show.
Buble described the umbrella that covers it all — and perhaps his umbrella appeal — when he called himself a “hopeless romantic,” adding “There’s worse things to be in this crummy world.”
Worse things to be than an old-school showman too. Ask those who hung to the very last words of “A Song for You,” belted to the arena without a microphone. It’s Buble in a nutshell. If he can’t make you feel anything new with the song, he can make you feel good anyway.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.