Paul Anka brought his talent and Vegas-like band to Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, N.J. Wednesday night and what a show it was. Paul Anka is celebrating 60 years as an entertainer and songwriter this year, which makes him the only artist in history to have a song in the Billboard Top 100 during seven consecutive decades. Paul has shown himself to be the consummate, professional showman and entertainer. On Wednesday night he moved the audience from teary nostalgia to utter joy and hand clapping.
Backed by a 10 piece band consisting of a horn section with trumpet, Trombone and saxophone, percussion and bongo set, drums, three guitars, violin, keyboards and grand piano, it was truly a Vegas-style band and one of the best I’ve heard.
Paul opened up with Tom Jones’ song “She’s A Lady” followed by a jazzy version of “Mack the Knife.” Paul then did a very nostalgic look with an onscreen scrapbook of his life from the beginning of his career when he was 16 and meeting all kinds of celebrities from Ed Sullivan to Johnny Carson and Jackie Gleason to pictures of his five daughters and ending with his current now 12-year-old son. Paul showed these while singing “The Time of Your Life” which made it quite poignant.
When Paul did his hit song “Having My baby” his female violinist sang the woman’s part with a lovely melodious voice. Paul updated it a bit first singing “having my baby,” then singing “having your baby” then “having our baby.” Maybe this was because at the time when it came out feminists complained of the chauvinist nature of it.
Paul then went into a medley of his hits singing “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” going into the audience and picking out a young girl who was celebrating her sweet sixteen birthday and dancing with her, then moved into “They Called it Puppy Love” and “Lonely Boy.”
Paul recalled when he was approached by film producer Darryl Zanuck who wanted him to do a song for his picture about D Day called “The Longest Day.” Paul then did that song. He also appeared in the movie which was an all-star cast featuring John Wayne and others.
Paul showed his diversity by doing a brand new slow romantic song on the grand piano he just recorded with Michael Buble then segued into a really sensual version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” that featured a very haunting sax solo. He then switched to doing an acoustic guitar set of foot stomping, rousing country songs with the three guitarists that featured a really fantastic, lively violin solo that got a huge applause from everyone.
Finally, Paul started telling about meeting Frank Sinatra for the first time and everyone knew what was coming. Paul told how he was at the Copacabana one night when a very dapper dressed man came up to him and said: “The boys in the back room want to see you.” He said he got a little choked up when hearing “The boys” want to see you. He went and was introduced to Frank Sinatra. He said Frank wanted him to write a song for him and he said “I could change the words from Puppy Love to be “Love is a bitch” to which Sinatra replied ’Keep writing kid.”
A few years later he contacted Frank and asked him if he still wanted him to write a song for him and Frank said he was retiring now. It was then that Paul wrote “My Way” for Frank. He then performed it and the responded with a rousing applause and then became silent. Paul ended the concert with his hit song “Diana” getting the audience to sing along in the chorus.
It was a two-hour non-stop concert that was one of the best I’ve been to and well worth seeing. Paul is 76 years old now and still has all the charm, style and grace he always had and sounds terrific. If you get the chance be sure to catch Paul Anka when he comes to a town near you. You won’t be disappointed.
Hear Paul Do “My Way” from August of this year out in San Jose, Calif. This is exactly the band he had tonite when I saw him.