On what would have been Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th birthday, the Recording Academy celebrated the musical legacy of Frank Sinatra with a stellar lineup of performers for Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert, which took place in the city where Sinatra had strong musical ties: Las Vegas.
Emanating from the Encore Theater (and set to air Sunday, Dec. 6, at 9 p.m. on CBS), the pre-recorded show was a career retrospective of the singer, actor and icon that featured some of pop music’s biggest names paying homage to the man who was a rock star before rock music was even considered a thing.
Everything that was Sinatra was encapsulated in this black-tie event, and artists including Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Harry Connick Jr. and others performed the very arrangements that were originally crafted for Sinatra and brought them to life.
It was far more than your Las Vegas Strip show that paid homage to the 11-time Grammy Award winner as just about every performance was delivered with a panache that reflected the Rat Pack member’s persona. Usher tipped through “That’s Life” with a drink in hand and completed the performance with a flip of the bird that was a subtle nod and wink to Sinatra’s coyness. Harry Connick Jr. effortlessly cooed “Luck Be a Lady” as signage from the old Las Vegas decorated the stage. And even though he initially gaffed on the third verse while spouting “And I don’t even drink!” all was forgiven on the retake as it went down just as smooth as one of Sinatra’s Jack Daniels whiskeys with four ice cubes.
Although not physically in the venue, Sam Smith’s voice reverberated throughout the theater as his rendition of “My Funny Valentine” channeled the essence of Sinatra as his trademark vocals bellowed and scaled to notes that only the Brit could reach.
There were other performances that were memorable, including John Legend performing “Young At Heart” and Celine Dion completely owning a magnificent version of “All The Way” while wearing a thigh-split gown that was simply to die for. Nick Jonas’ youthfulness was reminiscent of old Sinatra with his rendition of “Jealous” and the legendary Tony Bennett drew a standing ovation for “I’ve Got the World on a Strong.”
Some moments weren’t quite as stellar. Zac Brown seemed uncomfortable trying to mow through “The Way You Look Tonight” and Garth Brooks didn’t quite nail “The Lady Is a Tramp” with the confidence that bordered appropriate arrogance that Sinatra had. Although Juanes hit it on the nose and demonstrated Sinatra’s love of Latin music, it didn’t have the flair of previous performers.
Perhaps most surprising was Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane showcasing his vocal chops and delivering an eyebrow-raising rendition of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” where the man known more for voicing the goofy Griffins absolutely slayed his performance while perched on a stool at a makeshift bar. The vocals were precise, the setting was immaculate and the performance oozed of the smoky establishments where the original filled up a night of libations.
But the best was reserved for last as Lady Gaga was decked out in a tuxedo and fedora for the rousing finale performance of “New York, New York.” She strutted and strolled while delivering a magnificent vocal performance so pitch-perfect and laced with brashness that could have garnered her an invitation into Sinatra’s Rat Pack. The 29-year-old transformed into Sinatra right before the eyes of the audience while the showgirls helped decorate the stage. She even delivered a “Good to see you, doll” to one of the dancers that nailed down the performance.
The star-studded tribute was a reminder that there will never, ever be another Sinatra and just about every performer of today, knowingly or not, owes Ol’ Blue Eyes a tip of the fedora for laying the foundation of what it means to be a popular