Charles Aznavour: The Farewell Tour
(Charles Aznavour Website)
At Radio City Music Hall
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 19, 2006
In a packed crowd of fans, including the jubilant Liza Minelli, the 82 year-old Charles Aznavour, dressed in classic black, sang his heart out, in French, English, and Spanish, just as if he were in a smoky Left Bank Club at midnight. The lighting design provided black, gold, red, and sometimes blue hues in a sophisticated and elegant setting that befitted this most renowned chanteur. The Paris born, Armenian Aznavour (formerly Aznavourian) traveled in the circle of the legendary Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel, who wrote and crooned of the travails of love and war. Aznavour has also appeared in numerous films, spectacles, television, state events, festivals, and world tours. Many of Aznavour’s compositions exist today as standards to be heard time and again, like “Yesterday when I was young”, “La bohème”, and “Après l’amour”. My own musical passions were formed through the songs of Charles Aznavour and his circle.
Tonight the incredibly energetic Aznavour, with a skillful orchestra that never upstaged him, opened with “Les émigrants”, about immigrants, like his parents, accompanied by two female backups. Aznavour stood before a black grand piano, sharing 1948 Café Society stories with his thousands of fans. Lights swept up and down to “Bon anniversaire”, a tender romance. The chiaroscuro effects were especially prominent in the powerfully sung, “Paris au mois d’août”, about Paris in August. When Aznavour removed his jacket (although he complained of the cold), the red lights danced. One could almost not notice if the lyrics were English or French, as transitions were seamless.
A fine cellist (The commemorative book did not list musicians or designers.) supported a signature accordionist in “Non, je n’ai rien oublié” (I could never forget). “Les comédiens” (The comedians) was joined by searchlights that stretched across historical golden walls. The octogenarian danced a bit onstage to audience’s delight. “Je voyage” (I travel) was a duet with one of the young women, followed by “Toi et Moi” (You and me). One of the women was casually introduced as an Aznavour. In “Je t’aime a.i.m.e.” (I love you), Aznavour stopped the musicians to change key. This performance flexibility was expressed a few times, and each request was received with audience adoration. Charles Aznavour is his own maestro.
“Sa jeunesse” (Her youth) was written when Aznavour was 18, as a musical tribute and gift. When the stage lights went out, he sang in silhouette, and “Isabelle” was impassioned, throaty, and diffused, with purple-black lighting as added effects. “Ave Maria” was tonight a torch song, and the chorus shone with brilliance. “Un mort vivant ‘Delit d’opinion’ ” told a story of a living ghost in prison, abused and tortured for lifelong opinions. The steady drum roll joined the grand piano and electric keyboard for drama and depth. The mood soon shifted to a dance for two, “Dans tes bras”, and Aznavour danced about the stage with his arm bent to add an invisible partner.
With barely a pause (This program had no intermission and lasted two hours or more.), a Latin rhythm ensued, and Aznavour switched to Spanish, with two Spanish guitars along for the ride. Swing followed Latin, and a banjo-piano was featured in “La critique” (about critics and reviews). Heart-rending followed upbeat, and “Mon émouvant amour” was crooned against red-white lights, with a second singer following in sign language. This love song involved an enamored deaf mute. Gypsy guitars appeared next, and Aznavour seemed to feign a Greek table dance, as the audience clapped in rousing rhythm. Strobe lights and colors were ambient dynamics, and the final song, “La bohème”, followed by the encore, “Yesterday when I was young”, brought out Aznavour’s white handkerchief and my pink one.
Bravo et merci, Charles Aznavour. Please return at 83.
Check www.RadioCity.com for upcoming concerts, Christmas Spectacular, and special events at Radio City Music Hall. Before or after the event, or anytime you’re in the neighborhood of Radio City Music Hall, stop at Moda, for lunch, dinner, or drinks, with a lively lounge, open late for your convenience. Tell them you saw them on RobertaOnTheArts.com.