Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Michael Buble at the Aotea Centre

By RUSSELL BAILLIE

As he croons another standard from the great American songbook, Michael Buble sure looks the part. He sounds it too. And that's probably enough.

His local fans seemed to think so. The Canadian's Auckland audience gave him a near unanimous standing ovation after a set that lasted not much more than an hour.

In that time Buble and band had picked the eyes out of his debut album (the sales of which he reminded us are now headed towards the three million mark).

He also did some market research on what he should put on the next one (no to The Rainbow Connection, but yes to This Guy's In Love With You. It should solidify an evident gay following).

And quite a lot of the time he talked ... well oozed might be a better world for it. But in a self-deprecating and appreciative way - apparently it was his Australian and New Zealand fans who first got the sales rolling on that album of his. Aw shucks.

But, while it was a highly entertaining affair - especially when Buble threatened an 80s medley and started a version of Billie Jean - it also showed that there is something missing to Buble's particular time-warp pop phenomenon.

Yes, he's a fine entertainer and terrific singer of elegant phrasing who can deliver many of Frank Sinatra's touchstone tunes without it seeming just an impersonation.

But as much as it's nice to hear those great old songs done justice, that's all it was really. It was lovely but oddly forgettable.

Maybe Buble faces an impossible task trying to wring some new emotion out of - or inject his own personality into - songs that have been set in stone for so long. He and his sprightly eight-piece band sure can freshen up the tunes, but he just can't quite make them sound like he's the guy singing those words for the first time.

Still, it was was fun enough, especially when he wandered off that Vegas strip and did his swing thing to George Michael's Kissing a Fool, Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Lou Rawls' You'll Never Find a Love Like Mine and Lenny Kravitz' Stand By My Woman.

And at the end, an encore of My Funny Valentine - complete with verse sung away from the mike - showed Buble's singing is something quite special. And that he sure is making the most of being born in the wrong half of the 20th century.

The night did not start at all well. Before an extended wait for Buble - which brought on the slow hand-claps - there came the woefully mismatched support act of comedian Jan Maree.

Again, she proved she can turn the New Zealand accent into a thing of rare brutality. Her deathless screech of routine was bad enough, but in front of the extremely mixed-age crowd, it was like that embarrassed feeling of watching something dodgy with your parents.

Whoever thought that she might be a good idea as a warm-up for folks paying nearly $100 a ticket should be forced to sit through her again, all by themselves.

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