Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Cheek to Cheek at Ravinia

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Cheek to Cheek at Ravinia
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga at Ravinia Festival on Friday. Photo: Courtesy of Ravinia Festival

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett transported the Ravinia Festival crowd to “Heaven” this Friday and Saturday evening at two-sold-out concerts with their inspired renditions of jazz classics.

Even unseasonably cold weather and pouring down rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of Friday night’s audience. And when things heated up on Saturday night–the pair got an equally hot reception punctuated with many standing O’s.

The one hour and 50 minute show netted 10 costume transformations for Gaga, one for Tony (who traded-in his Friday night black tux jacket for a white one on Saturday) plus a repertoire of 30 songs.

Many of the songs were from the Great American Songbook–also known as “American Standards”–featuring popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century from Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and others.

Gaga and Bennett. Photo: Ravinia Festival

Gaga and Bennett. Photo: Ravinia Festival

Much has been made of the age difference between the two with Bennett pushing 90 (he’ll turn 89 on August 3) and Lady still in her 20″s (she turned 29 last March) but to see them together is to see time slip away.

Their performance is timeless, ageless and in a word magic. As the Lady herself has said, when she sings with Tony she hears “a third voice”–heaven, divine intervention–perhaps?

Whatever it is, the chemistry and true affection between the unlikely twosome comes across in spades–like a lucky gamblers streak– when they’re on stage together singing cheek to cheek.

The evening kicked off in high-style with Tony and Gaga singing a powerful rendition of “Anything Goes” backed by the outstanding 14-piece on-stage orchestra.

This was followed by a string of solos and duets with Tony belting out “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” along with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” the 1950’s number that jump-started his career and, of course, his signature, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Together again, the pair performed flawlessly with their flirty interpretation of “I Won’t Dance” and their title tune from their number-one selling “Cheek to Cheek” album.

“The Lady is a Tramp,” a favorite of the duo since they first appeared together in 2011, put a new spin on this old time goodie, taking Sinatra’s and Disney’s Lady (dog in Lady and the Tramp movie) to new heights with a new Lady–none other than Gaga–belting the lyrics alongside Bennett–updating the song with some 21st century sensibilities.

On her own, Gaga’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” was genius. She didn’t rush it–she paused soaking up the feelings while the audience held their breath–waiting for her to continue.   Her Marilyn Monroe-like interpretation of  “La Vie en Rose”–sung mostly in French–a flashback to Edith Piaf–can be seen below.

In a nod to Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Gaga dedicated the song “Lush Life” by Billy Strayhorn, a gay lyricist from the 1940’s to the decision.

Both singers reached out to the Chicago audience. Bennett telling the audience how much he loves performing in the Windy City while referencing his 35-year stint of sold-out shows at Ravinia Festival. He then encouraged the audience to join in while he sang “Chicago.”

Lady Gaga recognized her newish Chicago roots (since 2011), referencing her long-time relationship and recent engagement to Chicago Fire star and  former Chicago Wicker Park resident Taylor Kinney–while flashing her heart-shaped $500,00 engagement ring to the crowd.

The couple currently shares a condo overlooking Millennium Park.

Having seen both Bennett and Gaga perform individually in the past, it is hard to believe that either could be any better as a duo.

Amazingly, the teaming of the two brings an added dimension for both.  Bennett’s charisma and winning smile along with his amazing vocal prowess complemented by the pop-star’s glamor, energy and ability to re-invent herself at every turn–is an explosive combination.

More than a concert, the Bennett/Gaga pairing constitutes a re-birthing or re-enactment of an important period of musical history. It brings back to life the classic music of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Jimmy Van Heusen and others to a new generation while re-playing and updating it for the young at heart–who may have heard it before but not quite like this.

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