Tony Bennett makes nostalgic return to Italian roots

Mon Jul 23, 2012 3:07pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Whenever crooner Tony Bennett returns to the land of his roots, he feels overwhelmed.

"When I sing in Rome or anywhere in Italy, I get a complex," he said after performing for a sold-out hall at Rome's Parco della Musica.

"I know too much history, too much about the magnificence of Italy, the place where the orchestra was invented, the first piano, the first violin," he said, the feeling of awe mixed with pride clear in his voice.

With an easy laugh, he said he has come across singing waiters in Italy that could give some professional singers a run for their money.

Bennett, currently on a tour of Europe that will also take him to Spain, Monte Carlo, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland before it ends in August, left the Rome crowd sublimely stunned that he could still belt out his famous songs with style despite his 85 years.

Don't expect a light show or sound effects. A Tony Bennett concert, even if held in an auditorium or a piazza, feels as intimate as if it were in a small club in Greenwich Village. In fact, a number of people in the audience said later they felt as if he were singing just for them.

He is accompanied on the European tour by Lee Musiker on piano, Gray Sargent on guitar, Harold Jones on drums and Marshall Wood on upright bass. His daughter Antonia, 38, opens the show for him and they do several duets.

Bennett clearly has a soft spot for Italy, its people, its food and its musical heritage but the softest spot is for his parents, who came from the poor Calabria region in the deep south.   Continued...

Tony Bennett (L) and his daughter Antonia perform at a concert in Rome July 14, 2012. Bennett, whose father was born in southern Italy, says in an interview with Reuters that he gets emotional every time he returns to the land of his roots. Picture taken July 14, 2012. REUTERS/Carmen Pullella