About an hour and 20 minutes into his nearly 100-minute set on Sunday, Tony Bennett paused, walked to the front of The Pabst Theater stage, smiled a smile that really hadn't left his face the entire night, and asked the house to turn off the mics.
But, before belting out a stunning a cappella version of "Fly Me to Moon," he proclaimed The Pabst Theater, "one of the five best" he'd ever seen. "If there are any city fathers here, make sure this beauty stays and doesn't get turned into an insurance company."
Bennett marveled at The Pabst Theater and the sold-out audience marveled back as the 79-year-old sang, smiled, spun and sauntered all night in a special concert presented by the Milwaukee Advisory Board of The Salvation Army.
Telling stories and swooning through versions of song after song and hit after hit, Bennett did what he does: interpret the works of Cole Porter, Rogers & Hart, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and others with his own spirit, imagination, passion and voice that has more then held the test of time.
From the moment he took the stage, elegance dominated and Bennett's smiled never stopped. His crooning of Nat King Cole's "Smile" with the wonderful lyric "You'll find that life is still worthwhile ... if you just smile," was a well-sung theme for the night that raised thousands for the Salvation Army.
Bennett praised the organization and went on to give the crowd what they wanted: his classic songs. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "The Best is Yet to Come," "It Had to Be You," "I Love a Piano," Speak Low," "The Good Life," -- they were all there with Bennett's suit, silver tie, red pocket square and classic snap of the finger.
He even asked the audience if he could sing a bunch of his hits back-to-back, saying that in his day "he was the Britney Spears of his generation" and that he and Rosemary Clooney were the "original American Idols." With more than 50 million records sold, Bennett didn't need to ask permission to sing his hits but the humble gesture was a great testament to his lifetime of entertainment.
"Sing You Sinners" brought the crowd to its feet and got them clapping through out the entire song and his country hit, the Hank Williams classic "Cold, Cold Heart" also mesmerized the crowd.
Sunday night was The Salvation Army's night. With their slogan "Doing The Most Good" showing in a video before Bennett took the stage, the audience more than knew that the good done was not only that for charity but proof positive that if the music and the man are good they will abide.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.