The Scotiabank Centre has been having a banner year in 2022, having played host to top-tier acts such as Sting, Judas Priest, ZZ Top, the powerhouse tandem of James Taylor and Jackson Browne, many of whom had rebooked their tour dates two and three times due to the pandemic. Those acts are undeniable superstars, but this room played host to the biggest, and most elaborate production in 2022, and probably the biggest show of the past decade. Burnaby-born, sparkling water spokesman and international superstar Michael Bublé, brought his Higher tour east to the Maritimes, with stops in Halifax (on Friday the 21st), and Moncton (on Saturday night).
Banter is one of those things that you don’t always get at a show, usually, it’s used to elicit a cheap “Hello Halifax” pop, and it’s worked in between songs at certain points in the night. This show was quite the opposite, as it felt like songs had to be worked in between the moments of banter. For as elaborate a stage that is being employed on this tour, this was a performance that drew heavily from vintage variety shows and Michael was front in center as both host and performer. At times you had to wonder if maybe Bublé missed his calling as a stand-up comedian, he is a genuinely funny fella.
On the way into the venue, it was clear to see that there was an energy and buzz that was largely unrivalled. Long lines snaked around the building, of folks excitedly awaiting entry to that they could take their seat in advance of the curtain call. In looking around before the lights went down, you could see that the venue was packed with fans both older and very very young (a young couple brought their sub-1-year-old to the show, who was rocking a great pair of pink noise-cancelling earmuffs). The banter was reciprocated by a frisky lady who yelled out “My house is right near here” which left Bublé speechless and chucking, to which he retorted “I’ve been living on the wrong side of the country”, which drew healthy applause.
Ever the performer, Bublé’s self-aware and self-deprecating humour made mention of the fact that some consider him to be something of a king of Christmas, thanks to his recently re-released Christmas album (celebrating a 10-year anniversary in 2021) and his holiday variety special on CTV. He quipped that he dominates all seasons, and that image that many may have of him is quickly disproven, as he works through a collection of his original tunes while working in those well-known covers such as “Feeling Good”, Nat King Cole’s “Love” and Barry White’s “You’re the First, The Last my Everything”.
One particularly notable moment of the evening saw Michael regale the crowd about his love of “The King” Elvis Presley and how he feels it’s about time for Elvis’s music to make a comeback. He then proceeded to work through an Elvis Presley medley which included “Fever”, “All Shook Up” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. This segment was capped off with a pair of high-powered confetti canons which sent up a blizzard of tissue paper stripes, which I’m sure many of us will be finding for weeks to come.
Sure there may be a stigma surrounding a Michael Bublé announcement, that his music is a bit staid and outdated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He may have followed in the footsteps of Rat-Packers Sammy (Davis), Dean (Martin) and Frank (Sinatra), but updated the performance to be modern, fun and jovial. At one point in the evening, Buble recalled a piece of information that he received from the legendary Tony Bennett who explained to Michael that when you steal from one person, you’re a thief, but if you steal from many then you can call it research. It was funny and apt, not to say that Bublé lifted his act, instead you can see the influences of those that came before, throughout the performance. There are also moments that feel very inspired by the many magicians who perform in Las Vegas, from the way the lights direct your attention elsewhere while a curtain rises or lowers, or from the impressive stage composition which uses a wide horizontal screen above the “orchestral pit”, it’s an impressive technical set-up.
As much of a performer as Bublé is (and he is one of the best), the way in which he infuses the material with this weight, and serious emotion is an impressive paradox. From the potent vocalist to an extroverted joker, he has the chops to sit down and do the work, while his spirit implores him to go play. Many acts keep a fairly standard stage set up, which provides some sort of buffer between artist and audience, but Michael Buble’s stage and catwalk allow him the maximum amount of exposure to the crowd, accepting gifts, hugs and high-fives from adoring fans. For a show that is this elaborate and rehearsed, it somehow still manages to remain intimate and authentic. If you ever have the chance to see Michael Buble perform live in person, buy the tickets, you will not regret it.