- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Tony Bennett walked onto the outdoor stage at Wolf Trap Farm Park and into Sunday evening's sweltering heat wearing a bright blue suit adorned with a light blue necktie and red handkerchief.
Despite temperatures in the 90s and one fan's admonition to Mr. Bennett to "Take off your coat," the 76-year-old singer stood and performed for more than 90 minutes without even unbuttoning his suit jacket. Members of his four-man band did not have jackets, but they also were dressed formally in long-sleeve shirts with ties.
Mr. Bennett's attire was just one sign of his tremendous respect for his audience. That respect is one reason why the park was almost filled to capacity with nearly 7,000 fans from twentysomethings to those in their 80s willing to endure the heat to hear the legendary crooner.
A nasal baritone, Mr. Bennett was never blessed with a beautiful voice like that of Frank Sinatra. He became a great singer because he is a consummate professional and brilliant song stylist.
He also knows how to choose the right material. "I try to think of the best popular songs the public loves," Mr. Bennett told the audience.
With the exception of the sappy Barbra Streisand hit "People (Who Need People)," which clearly is beneath an artist like Mr. Bennett, he succeeded in this concert in selecting the timeless classics of American popular song.
Singing as if he were having an intimate conversation with the audience, Mr. Bennett carefully chose how much emphasis to put on each word and phrase of a song. After softly crooning most of the lyrics to "Maybe This Time," a song about someone desperately seeking love, Mr. Bennett grabbed the audience's attention when he belted the lines, "Maybe this time, I'll win."
Mr. Bennett didn't just sing, however; he entertained, conversing with audience members as if they were old friends. "I was the Britney Spears of my day," he joked before launching into the hits that made him famous, such as "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
Frequently, before he sang the great standards by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, Mr. Bennett talked to the audience about the composers who had created the songs and the performers who had made them famous.
In a particularly touching moment, Mr. Bennett announced that he was going to sing a song written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg and explained, "After the 9/11 tragedy, [the songs] inspirational words pertain to how we should feel about this great country." He then sang his poignant rendition of the familiar "Over the Rainbow," and the audience listened with rapt attention as he sang of "a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby."
Mr. Bennett was not afraid to share the spotlight with his four talented instrumentalists, who backed him with a piano, drums, an electric guitar and stand-up bass.
He frequently praised the band and let individual musicians perform solos. The group also performed instrumental songs within songs, such as Mr. Berlin's "Heat Wave" a tune highly appropriate for this hot Virginia night.
After receiving a standing ovation, Mr. Bennett performed three encores, getting the audience clapping to Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and listening wistfully to the ballads "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" and "Once Upon a Time."
Despite the heat, the audience was still clamoring for more when Mr. Bennett finally left the stage with his suit jacket still buttoned.

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