Tony Bennett’s appearances at Ravinia have become a touchstone of summer, a celebration of the good life—and love, and heartache, and everything in between. Although the shows almost always hit around his birthday, this year he’s late; he turned 92 back on August 3rd. That day also he announced the arrival of a new Gershwin album, Love is Here to Stay, recorded with Diana Krall and due out this month.
He’ll play for one night only—this Saturday, Sept. 8. Here are excerpts from an interview we conducted with the legend last summer. 8:30PM, tickets from $46
You’re returning to Ravinia once more. Welcome back.
I love playing there. You know, Chicago has been wonderful to me right through the years. It was wonderful the first time. It’s when everything started to happen. To this day it’s one of my favorite audiences in the world.
I got my start there. Nat King Cole had a show there, but he had been asked to play for the President, so he called me up and said please play the date for me. I couldn’t get over it—that he offered me that wonderful situation. It went so well that I have been playing there almost every year since.
Somehow you keep it fresh.
No matter how many times you do it there’s still so much to learn. To me every time I hit the stage it feels like the first time I am doing it. I try to be as spontaneous as possible. I sing differently every night. I’ll do the same repertoire but it will sound different according to what the situation is. I’ll do anything to keep the show alive—and if it’s alive to us it’s alive to the audience.
Are you a jazz musician?
Well, I have always been into jazz—I’ve always felt that way. To just wait for the moment to see what would happen, [to draw] from whatever is happening around me and to respond to the other players. Its always an invention, all the time.
You’re still touring actively.
I’m still going strong. We’re sold out all over the world—I feel honored that the public has been so loyal to me. I’ve had a beautiful life performing. Magnificent. To be this old and still be sold out wherever is thrilling for me.
What’s left for you to do?
I’ve never played South Africa. It’s so far away. I’ve been requested to play there, and I have been told that I have quite a few fans there but it seems so far away that I don’t know if I will ever get there. I would like to, someday.
You’re not weary of the life?
You play from moment to moment, and by creating the moment it’s completely fresh and new so it never feels the same and it’s never boring to me. You learn what to leave out and what to leave in. The whole idea is to knock the audience out.
Mr. Bennett, it’s been an honor speaking with you.
You can call me Tony, thanks.