Frank Sinatra Jr.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
Last night at the Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek, about 1,200 people filed into the Pavilion Theater to get a good look at the offspring of Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra Jr.
Some, like Irene Brenner and Iris Rosenstrauss, both 81, had to settle for a squint. "I wish they would install some TV monitors in here," said Rosenstrauss of Fort Lauderdale. "We can't see a thing."
Complaints aside, it was hard not to notice that the average age at the concert last night was probably somewhere in the mid-60s. But these things you come to expect in South Florida, especially at a concert featuring music that hasn't been played on the radio for half a decade.
But for the people who came to see him last night, Sinatra Jr. isn't just another toupee-wearing Sinatra impersonator to catch after the early-bird buffet. He's a link to the real deal, a corporeal relic with ties back to that Golden Age of American Song when dance bands traveled to cities around the world, when men wore fedoras and smoked indoors, when pictures of Sinatra lined the walls of every girl's bedroom.
And so, as Frank Sinatra Jr. walked onto the stage last night singing the first few lyrics of "That Face," the audience prepared itself for a trip back in time. And Sinatra certainly took them there, recreating the aura of his father's generation down to the smallest details. Unlike other Sinatra impersonators, who have to learn to walk and talk like the Chairman of the Board, Jr's mannerisms were the real deal, encoded into his DNA.
As he crooned his way through classics like "Love Is Just Around the Corner" and "Don'cha Go 'Way Mad," you got the impression that his voice had been crafted by nature to sound like his father's. But what most people don't know is that Sinatra Jr is a trained musician. He even went to music school for a little while and was the musical director of his father's band. Being the son of Frank Sinatra might have endowed him with some natural talent, but it took years of study and hard work to become the musician he is today.
And for a man who is famous for championing live music (and condemning all things digital), he certainly brought the band to back his statements up. His musicians were superb, with trumpet players who screeched into the stratosphere on "I Wanna Be Around" and sax players who cried through their instruments on "More than You Know."
And even though you might think a man with such negative opinions of modern music would be as dry as burnt toast, he is actually quite funny. His "resurrection" of a Dean Martin lounge act, complete with a nasally, radio-voiced introduction and a few sips from a glass of scotch, was one of the lighter moments of the show. And when he began the first few bars of "When You're Smiling" with the lyrics "When you're drinking," the audience appreciated the subtle jab. It was like watching a younger brother tease his older brother out of love.
Moments like those were the highlights of his show. His stories about Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. just seem truer than everyone else's. They're not being read out of some cheesy biography or looked up online. They're not rumors or anecdotes he picked up second hand. They're experiences he actually lived, and he simply has to remember them.
But Sinatra Jr. wasn't the only one reminiscing in the theater last night. As he belted out tunes like "I've Got the World on a String" and "Strangers in the Night," the audience became visibly nostalgic, clapping along before the first four bars had been played, before a single word had even been sung.
And by the time the show concluded with "New York, New York," the audience, it seemed, was fully immersed in the past. A few ladies crowded the front of the stage, fawning at Sinatra's feet like the teenagers they were fifty years ago. There was even one couple swing dancing in the aisles. Sure, their leg kicks and twirls might have been a little slower and lower, but the feeling was still the same.
"I saw his father do this number in Carnegie Hall," Brenner shouted as the familiar brass introduction blared from the front of the theater. Her face was beaming. And while the faces onstage might have been blurry to her, the memories were as clear as ever.
Of course, it was impossible not to draw some parallels between Sinatra Jr and his father. The two men are, after all, bound by blood and name. But Sinatra Sr was in a class by himself, untouchable. There is no one who could follow in his footsteps.
His son, however, did an admirable job. His voice isn't quite as rich as his father's, and his eyes will never be as blue. But if you cock your head and squint just the right way, you'll see he's the closest thing we have.
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