FRANKLY SPEAKING, it was more Caesars Palace than Salt Palace in the Acord Arena on Tuesday night.
The signs on the front of the Salt Palace may not be as fantastic and dazzling as those along the Las Vegas Strip, but the marquee said it all: FRANK SINATRA IN CONCERT.And some 9,000 Sinatra fans, who gave him a standing ovation before he even sang his first note, got just what they came to see - a slam-bang, knock 'em dead performance by a bona fide legend.
Maybe "The Voice" doesn't have quite the depth and range that was there 30 or 40 years ago, and certainly his hair is whiter and thinner, but, hey - how many 75-year-olds do you know who can perform nonstop for 75 minutes, crooning and belting some of the greatest songs that ever came out of Tin Pan Alley.
"What a nice welcome," Sinatra told the crowd. "I hope you like the songs we've chosen for you tonight," adding that they were going to be mostly older tunes "because nobody writes any decent songs any more."
Then, from 8:45 until 10 p.m., he did his Diamond Jubilee Tour concert his way - a graphic demonstration in the meaning of the word "showmanship."
The songs represented some of the greatest American composers ever - Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen. And many of the arrangements and orchestrations lent themselves to name-dropping, too . . . names like Quincy Jones, Don Costa, Billy Barnes and Nelson Riddle.
"You Make Me Feel So Young," Sinatra sang . . . and, even though he's 75 years old, we believed him.
In rapid succession, he went through such all-time greats as "I've Got the World on a String," "For Once in My Life," "I Get A Kick Out of You," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "The Lady Is a Tramp," the poignant "The September of My Years," "The Best Is Yet to Come," a knock-out rendition of "Mack the Knife" and a song that Sinatra said was one of the sweetest ever from the vast American library, "The Summer Wind."
In a moving salute to our country and in remembrance of current conditions in the world, he sang Don Costa's arrangement of "What Is America to Me?" The stage in the center of the arena was bathed in red, white and blue light.
Then Sinatra shifted gears slightly, telling the crowd that what he really loves to sing are "saloon songs" - those sad, smoky tunes with lyrics about unrequited love. He took a sip to wet down his throat, lit a cigarette and did a bluesy version of "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry." The words were smoldering nearly as much as the cigarette in his left hand.
Next up on the agenda was a song that drove the crowd absolutely wild. Maybe Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, but Frank Sinatra's signature city has gotta be "New York! New York!"
Admittedly, Sinatra's voice may not be quite up to par or what it used to be, but his delivery is potent and honest. No gimmicks. No tape-recorded "sweetened" soundtracks. What you get is straight from Francis Albert Sinatra's heart. Seeing the Chairman of the Board live and in person, I felt that any cracks now and then in the upper ranges were more from the emotion he was feeling, not because the vocal chords were failing him.
The first half of the evening's program featured comedian Tom Dreesen and that dynamic duo Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (we'll get into their stuff later.)
For the final 15 or 20 minutes of Sinatra's portion of the concert, he was joined on stage by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme - and the three of them went through another string of 18 hits, including "All or Nothing At All," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "Come Fly With Me," "Night and Day," "Day In, Day Out," "The Tender Trap," "Witchcraft," "Strangers in the Night" . . . a veritable jukebox catalog of Sinatra's biggest songs.
After a few more ("One for My Baby, One for the Road," "When You're Smiling," "Young at Heart" and "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"), Steve and Eydie left the stage, and then - for the finale - it was just Sinatra, alone in the glare of the spotlight, singing it "My Way."
The full-size orchestra, under direction of Frank Sinatra Jr., provided Vegas-quality backup for the concert.
The sound system, the lighting and the large-screen projection system were all first-rate as well.STEVE and EYDIE work at about the same level as colleague Frank Sinatra: fever pitch.
Their 40-minute set during the first half of the show included such great Broadway and Tin Pan Alley duets as "Together" from "Gypsy"; Steve Allen's upbeat "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" (which could have been a harbinger of the concert that followed); "Come Back to Me," from "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" (with Eydie's hit from the same show, "What Did I Have That I Don't Have") - and an 18-song medley saluting the best of the Big Band era, including "Sentimental Journey" (a title that pretty much set the theme for the entire night), "The Very Thought of You," "In the Mood," "Opus One," "Tangerine" and a slew of others.
My day-planner claims it was Tuesday, but, according to the concert, it was "Juke Box Saturday Night."
"She's the best lady singer in the business," said Steve about his wife at one point in the concert. And it was obvious, there at center stage, that Steve and Eydie share a deep love for each other as well as a love for performing. And, like Sinatra, the songs they enjoy the most are the tunes from Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and other all-time great American composers.
Some of the solo highlights from Steve and Eydie's set included Eydie's torchy version of "If He Walked Into My Life" from "Mame," and Steve's romantic rendition of "(This Is That) Once In a Lifetime."COMEDIAN TOM Dreesen got things off to a warm, friendly start with his brand of clean humor.
He noted that he had arranged with Mayor Palmer DePaulis for a police escort to the arena, but that the Salt Lake police force was busy, so, instead, he was escorted by the Magna police - one cop . . . on a John Deere tractor . . . with no siren, so he used a cat in heat.
"Are you from Idaho?" he asked one person in the front row. "Would you buy me a lottery ticket?"
He talked about growing up in the South Side of Chicago.
"You know," he said, "the people in Beverly Hills think they invented sushi. But I had it when I was a kid in Chicago, only back then we called it bait."
This brought him to the topics of doctors and how they recommend eating fish because it's supposed to be healthy.
"There's low incidence of cancer among the Eskimos because they eat fish," he noted. "There's a low incidence of Eskimos! How many Eskimos are here tonight?
"I rest my case," he said, after there were no visible hands in the nearly three-fourths-filled arena.
"And I hope that any doctors coming to the concert tonight had to wait a long, long time out in the lobby," he added.
"My ex-wife, God rest her soul," he commented. "She's not dead, but God rest her soul anyway."
Discussing the always good-for-a-laugh topic of divorce, he noted that he and his ex-wife initially stayed together for the children.
"She didn't want them and neither did I."
"Our marital troubles began when it was our anniversary and, for a present, I brought home crystal," he said. "But my wife got mad because Crystal was younger than she was."
"You need a sense of humor when you're getting divorced," he added. "The judge said he was giving my wife $3,000 a month and I said `Thanks, judge, and if I can come up with a few extra bucks I'll give her some now and then, too.' But the judge didn't think much of my humor."
Maybe the judge didn't care for it, but the crowd in the Salt Palace on Tuesday night gave Dreesen a warm ovation.
Overall, the concert was a rarity for the Salt Palace. Lyrics you could actually understand. Music that mostly calmed the nerves instead of assaulting the senses. There wasn't the slightest whiff of marijuana in the air.
Sinatra's Diamond Jubilee Tour concert series began last December, on the eve of his 75th birthday.
"I hope you all live to be 500 years old and the last voice you hear is mine!" said Sinatra during his set.
It was a sentiment that the audience surely must have felt as well.
So, when Frank is celebrating his 575th birthday, we'll all congregate at whatever has replaced the Jazz Arena by that time, and do it all again.