Michael Bublé delivered feelgood vibes and flawless vocals to a packed Spark Arena, with showmanship, flair and humour to boot.
The mostly mature crowd were hyped up by a countdown projected onto a curtained stage, with the gig starting 15 minutes late to huge applause and a flamboyant 2 minute orchestral intro, before fireworks heralded the Canadian crooner’s arrival. The 30-piece big band were given a break for the opening number – an acapella version of Feeling Good which hit all the right notes with an adoring audience.
For sheer showmanship, Bublé surely can’t be bettered. His set was interspersed with humour, warmth and anecdotes about his songs and travels. “This is a party. This is a celebration of life!” he announced, and it certainly felt like one – helped by the inclusion of all the bells and whistles – firework plumes, sparkle curtains and a confetti cannon. Nice touches on a special evening, but unnecessary – just Bublé, his fabulous band and his heartfelt delivery would have been enough to wow the crowd.
Dressed in black, the 5 time Grammy winner performed Dean Martin’s Sway and referenced his influences – including Bennett, Sinatra and Elvis Presley, with whom he made a posthumous recording of Fever, before accompanying himself on guitar and segueing into a short medley of The King’s hits.
There were plenty of familiar covers in the set, from Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E to Barry White’s You’re The First, The Last, My Everything, so unsurprisingly there was also a lot of singing along from the enthusiastic crowd.
Bublé’s velvety and versatile voice never missed a note. What was missing were the festive songs for which he is probably best known… “Half of you thought you were coming to see Christmas Boy tonight!” he wryly observed, but was genuinely affectionate toward his fans, wishing them “health, peace and happiness” and urging the crowd to “shake those Kiwi asses for me!”
There was a bit of TikTok-ing and lots of fun, slightly suggestive and risqué humour and tongue-in-cheek jokes about his fear that he would “kill his UK audiences with his sexiness”. There was even a showcase of an Auckland duo whom Bublé had met today performing at the Fish Market and invited along to sing an excerpt of Up Where We Belong – presumably Vanessa and Johnny’s biggest gig to date, complete with arena-screen glory and a 12,000 strong singalong audience.
The Higher tour has apparently played 143 shows in 47 countries, but you wouldn’t know it from the energy on stage for this final hurrah. The big band were clearly having shed-loads of fun, singing along to When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You). Bublé was keen to acknowledge the talent and skills of the musos on stage and during the encore, to an instrumental of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, stylish pre-recorded black and white footage of each member of the band was shown, whilst they played live in individual spotlights – a generous and unusual touch.
His biggest hits – Home, Cry Me A River, Hold On, Feeling Good and Haven’t Met You Yet – confirmed beyond doubt that “Christmas Boy” shouldn’t be relegated to festive tunes. Bublé delivered personality, pizzazz, and 105 minutes of sheer showmanship, before releasing a delighted audience to travel home on a chilly Sunday night after an emotive rendition of You Were Always On My Mind.
Mid-way into the set, Bublé commented “That was some smooth good shit right there!” It certainly was. As smooth good shit goes, this gig was faultless – quite possibly the concert experience of the year. He’s certainly set the bar ridiculously high.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:
- FEELING GOOD
- HAVEN’T MET YOU YET
- L-O-V-E (Nat King Cole cover)
- SWAY (Dean Martin cover)
- WHEN YOU’RE SMILING (THE WHOLE WORLD SMILES WITH YOU) (Seger Ellis cover)
- TO LOVE SOMEBODY (Bee Gees cover)
- HOLD ON
- YOU DON’T KNOW ME (Ray Charles cover)
- FEVER (Little Willie John/ Peggy Lee cover)
- MEDLEY – (IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR) TROUBLE/ BURNING LOVE/ CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU (Elvis Presley covers)
- YOU’RE THE FIRST, THE LAST, MY EVERYTHING (Barry White cover)
- IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY
- SMILE (Instrumental – Charlie Chaplin cover)
- CRY ME A RIVER (Julie London cover)
- YOU WERE ALWAYS ON MY MIND (Gwen McCrae cover)