Day Two at Seattle's tremendous Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival began for me at the big ol' Key Arena, the Seattle Center venue for the festival's headliners. I was not expecting to be able to photograph there at all (only a limited amount of photogs are allowed to shoot at the Mainstage at Bumbershoot), so when the word came that I would officially be able to bring out the Big Camera for Tony Bennett, I was thrilled. His show at the Paramount last December, which I reviewed and photographed for Back Beat Seattle, was a true highlight of all my years of concertgoing.
After winding my way down to the floor of Key during the last song by retro-soul group Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, I wished I had arrived earlier to see the whole set! Jones was a fiery, compelling performer, and I was able to grab a couple of shots at a distance!
(Click the photos to enlarge or click on the Flickr links to see more!)
(Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings Bumbershoot Flickr set)
As the Dap-Kings' equipment was packed up and Bennett's brought in, word came down that no one would be able to shoot Tony from the photo pit, or even at the side -- we had to break into two groups on either side and fairly far back. As Tony strode out onto the stage in a butter-yellow blazer, looking sharp and relaxed as ever, we all went clickclickclickclick with our long lenses on.
(Tony Bennett Bumbershoot Flickr set)
After our three-song limit, I asked if I could stay to see the rest of the show. "Sure," replied a nice usher, "If you can find a seat, it's yours!" It was only then that I looked around. Except for the upper-upper mezzanine, which had been closed off, the arena was completely filled. Wow. So much love for the Tone Man! I really wasn't sure if I would find anything. But a minor miracle occurred, and about 1/3 of the way back on the floor right on the aisle was a open seat! I swooped in and sat down in a very awkward way, what with wearing two cameras and carrying a big bag, and sat back, happy.
A shrink could probably come up with a pretty credible theory as to why I have such a strong emotional response to Bennett's music. Just like at the Paramount, as I listened I began to tear up, with no particular prompt nor feelings of sadness. Perhaps it is the tremendous shared feeling of respect and admiration for the 86-year-old vocalist, still in such fine form. Perhaps it is a feeling of long-ago days and the comfort of simple, uncomplicated sentiments. Perhaps it is a feeling of the days passing so quickly, an appreciation of being able to see and hear something so lovely now. Whatever the case, I wasn't alone. Never have I seen such a large crowd, many whom perhaps had never even heard of Tony Bennett and didn't know his music, act in this way: pin-drop quiet as Bennett spoke and sang, then erupting in thunderous cheers after each song, with standing ovations after almost every song.
Seattle was the final stop in a long world tour for Tony and his wonderful band, and I was so glad that we gave them such an enthusiastic welcome. In fact, nearing the end of the show, he thanked the crowd on behalf of himself and the band, saying, "We will remember this day for the rest of our lives." What a generous parting gift to give to everyone there.
More from Bumbershoot Day Two tomorrow!