What to Expect from Sinatra’s 100th Birthday Concert

Lady Gaga performs "New York New York"

Lady Gaga performs “New York, New York”

Wynn Las Vegas saw more tuxedos Wednesday night than it does on New Year’s Eve as celebrities such as Jeremy Renner, John Legend and Tony Bennett flocked to the resort’s Encore Theater to take part in the Recording Academy’s Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert. The two-hour special airs December 6 at 9 p.m. on CBS. The show is a narrative of Sinatra’s life in lyrics and photo, as sung by today’s biggest voices in their original arrangements and back by a thunderous orchestra.

The standout performer was host Seth MacFarlane, who kicked off the tribute to “the greatest saloon singer in history” with a montage of images set to “It Was a Very Good Year.” The evening explored Sinatra’s whole career with witty quips (“May you live to be 100 and may that voice you hear be mine”) and a lot of swagger.

The first scene included Katherine McPhee belting “You Make Me Feel So Young,” Harry Connick Jr. doing what he does best on “My Kind of Town,” and John Legend and McPhee dueting on “You and Me.” Garth Brooks, who formerly called the Encore Theater home during his residency at Wynn, mastered “Lady Is a Tramp” in a tux and signature black cowboy hat.

Harry Connick Jr.

Harry Connick Jr.

During a break, L.L. Cool J and Renner—dressed in a chocolate-colored velvet suit—provided commentary, noting that Sinatra recorded an impressive 300 songs between 1953 and 1962. Mention was also made of Sinatra’s relationship with Vegas and his carefree days with Sammy and Dean at the Sands. Against a backdrop of neon signs, Carrie Underwood flawlessly tackled “Come Fly With Me,” MacFarlane killed it on “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” Zac Brown put forth an impressive effort on “Stars Fell on Alabama,” Legend hit every note on “Young at Heart” and Connick Jr. paid homage to the Rat Pack with “Luck Be a Lady.” It’s only fitting that this concert took place in Las Vegas, a town Sinatra helped define.

One of the night’s most intriguing anecdotes came from U2’s Bono and the Edge, who recounted a story of pitching Sinatra at a Mexican restaurant in Palm Springs on recording a song called “Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad,” which he declined. They sang that very tune via pre-recorded set from across the pond.

Caesars Palace headliner Celine Dion shared a story about her husband Rene Angelil. “Frank Sinatra has always been the singer he loved the most … until he met me,” which led into her performance of “All the Way.”

Sinatra himself, via audio, introduced Tony Bennett, courtesy of a clip of an interview he did in 1965, in which he called Bennett “the best in the business.” Bennett sang “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

Another equally poignant moment was when Quincy Jones and LL Cool J introduced Alicia Keys. It was in fact Sinatra who gave Jones the nickname Q. “Frank Sinatra changed my whole life,” Jones said, during his time with the Count Basie orchestra. Imparting this advice from the Chairman of the Board: “Live every day like it’s your last and one day you will be right.”

Keys was the quintessential chanteuse in a black jumpsuit as she played piano, standing up no less, and sweetly sang “I’ve Got a Crush on You.”

There were a few performances in the evening evening that seemed to be overshadowed by Sinatra’s larger-than-life presence. Adam Levine appeared to shrink away during his rendition of “The Best Is Yet to Come,” and Nick Jonas was vocally in over his head on “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”

But nothing could put a damper on this audience of Sinatra friends and lovers as the crowd erupted into standing ovation after standing ovation. Third-row center, Steve Wynn watched the night unfold, alongside the Sinatra family, and, in true Vegas fashion, a seat-filler dressed as an Elvis impersonator.

Lady Gaga closed it out with a true showstopper,  “New York, New York,” dressed in a black tux, fedora and velvet slippers, with help from a few showgirls and a hail of confetti.

The evening proved that Sinatra’s music and arrangements are as fresh as the day he recorded them, and his voice and presence is still the most powerful in the room, even after 100 years.

Other performances from Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert

Tricia Yearwood: “I’ll Be Seeing You”
Zac Brown: “The Way You Look Tonight”
Juanes: “One Note Samba”
Katherine McPhee intro-ing Carrie Underwood’s “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Seth MacFarlane: “One for My Baby”
Usher: “That’s Life”