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That Sinatra Magic Still Lives

A recent New York performance proved his commanding presence hasn't waned

Frank Sinatra has a touring schedule that would put most younger performers to shame.

At the age of 78, with his vocal powers somewhat diminished, he still puts on his tuxedo hundreds of nights a year and sings his songs. He seems to be operating on pure heart and spirit.

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As part of his nonstop schedule, he recently performed for a week at New York's Radio City Music Hall (he appears there about once a year).

The show is shorter than ever at about 65 minutes. He now performs nothing but his absolute favorites; a complicated number like the ``Soliloquy'' from ``Carousel,'' which he performed as recently as last year, has been dropped from the current program.

He seems increasingly reliant on his conductor, who happens to be his son, Frank Sinatra Jr., and slavishly attentive to his monitors, on which his lyrics are projected.

And yet, the magic is still there. There is something so commanding, so towering about Sinatra's presence that the years seem to melt away.

When he saunters onto the stage and sings the first lines of his customary opener, ``Come Fly With Me,'' people still seem to swoon as if they were at the Paramount in the 1940s.

Sinatra performed his usual set, many of which are on his ``Duets'' album (a second installment is due this fall): ``For Once in My Life,'' ``Come Rain or Come Shine,'' ``The Lady is a Tramp,'' ``The House I Live In,'' ``Fly Me to the Moon,'' ``What Now My Love,'' ``One For My Baby.''

All, of course, are presented in the sumptuously gorgeous arrangements by the likes of Nelson Riddle and Don Costa that Sinatra has been using for years.

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It's a special treat when he sings something relatively unusual.

Here, it was ``A Foggy Town,'' and an especially sweet rendition of ``Embraceable You.''

He saves his definitive songs for last: a swaggering ``Mack the Knife;'' a melancholy ``One for My Baby,'' which he performs while seated on a barstool nursing a drink and a cigarette; the classic ``Summer Wind''; the inevitable ``My Way''; and of course, as the closer, the enormously popular, ``New York, New York.''

The only glitz of the evening came in the final number, in the form of giant illuminated letters spelling out the song's title.

At the end of the show, Sinatra is done. No encores needed for such a legend.

Sinatra is, of course, relying on sheer technique by this point, but his lifelong mastery of singing more than carries him through.

The voice is for the most part gone, but there are moments, brief ones, in which he hits a certain note exactly right or sings a phrase with the cocky and suave assurance of old.

It is for those sublime moments, in which the years seem to evaporate, that I continue to attend Sinatra's concerts. As long as he's willing to get up on a stage and sing, I'll be there.

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