He had us at the pyrotechnics. Before hometown boy Michael Bublé even sang a note of his opening tune Fever in Vancouver Thursday night, the sold-out crowd was primed for him to be spectacular.
This has been the spring of our discontent out here on the West Coast: Desperate for some distraction, the rain-drenched, teachers’-strike-weary crowd had, weather be damned, strapped on the high heels and the super-skinny mom jeans anticipating an utterly excellent night out. Whether Bublé delivered seemed almost beside the point.
This was the 104th show of Bublé’s world tour, and the first of its Canadian leg. For Bublé – who grew up in Burnaby – it was a big hairy homecoming deal.
“I promise you – nothing has meant more to me,” he told the crowd at Rogers Arena, where his beloved Canucks play.
The air was certainly charged, and Bublé, spiffy in his tux, charmed the joint. Early in the night, he spotted an older woman holding a sign indicating that she had been attending Bublé’s concerts for a decade, and that this was her 45th show. “You crazy bitch!” he exclaimed, and invited her up to the stage, where he autographed the sign.
He reflected on the joys of becoming a father. “It’s the most I’ve ever gotten back for, like, 15 seconds of work.”
He invited the audience to think of the night as a first date, where we’d begin by getting to know each other, and end up, if all went well, having “dirty sex in my car.” After a pause for cheers, he added: “My grandma’s here tonight.” (Laughter.) “But she’s hot as shit.” (Yeesh.)
Bublé is a captivatingly strange sort of crooner cocktail – velvet voice on ice, with a generous splash of raunch. On Thursday night, the crowd drank it up.
While the shtick mostly worked, I could have done without his quip about the greatest moment of his life being finding out that the baby was his (“my wife gets around”); and the alcoholism crack he made while introducing one of the musicians (“he’s a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in almost two hours”).
I have no idea why Bublé feels a need to pander to the lowest common denominator, when he is actually very funny – not to mention that vocal talent that has catapulted him from suburban Vancouver boy to superstar.
Bublé played for close to two hours – a solid set of covers and original material, and it was mostly fantastic. He marked his territory, gliding across the sleek stage, backed by an excellent 13-piece band (the brass section replaced by strings later in the show), and splashy visuals. He managed to connect with the fans in a way I have rarely seen in this venue, pressing as much flesh as he could manage on his way to and from a second stage at the back of the arena, where he performed a tribute set that began with a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, and wrapped with a singalong All You Need is Love, before launching into Elvis’s Burning Love back on the main stage.
A predictable highlight was Home, a song he said would have included “Vancouver” in the lyrics had there been a word he could rhyme with it other than “Hoover.” “Don’t mistake it – it’s yours,” he assured us.
Rogers Arena has its acoustic challenges: I could hear Bublé’s voice bouncing off the back walls to the point of distraction. I don’t know if it was distracting him (it seemed to, maybe, early in the show), but he pushed through it.
And then he played with it.
For the final song of the night, Bublé chose the perfect ballad: Leon Russell’s A Song For You. Maybe it’s just the Red Bull talking in the wee hours of a Friday morning, but listening to him sing about acting out his life on stages with 10,000 people watching was lump-in-throat poignant. There’s another side to the guy with the grandma wisecracks.
And then the show-stopper: the curtain dropped behind him, and Bublé, now alone onstage, put his finger to his lips, asking us to be quiet – and ditched the microphone for the last few lines of the song. “And when my life is over, remember, when we were together,” he sang out to the giant arena.
It was a pin-drop spectacular ending to a show that dazzled with confetti and some off-colour comic craziness, but will long be remembered for a genuine intimacy that it takes a real pro to achieve in a big old hockey barn, proving that if you’re Michael Bublé, yes, you can go home again.