Cheek to cheek

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform in Israel this week

September 10, 2014 18:28
4 minute read.
Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform in Israel this week. (photo credit: PR)

Last month, as the country teetered amid Code Red sirens sounding, rockets being launched from Gaza and a dominoeffect cancellation of one big-name show after another (Neil Young, Lana Del Rey, Backstreet Boys), the prospects of Tel Aviv hosting concerts by two of pop music’s most talked-about stars on consecutive September evenings seemed as remote as the idea of Egypt offering part of Sinai for a Palestinian state.

Look at what a month can do.

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Even if Sinai doesn’t turn into Palestine by the Shore, the shows this weekend by everyone’s favorite diva Lada Gaga and everyone’s favorite octogenarian crooner Tony Bennett are a post-war reality that everyone can embrace.

“I’m proud and happy that Lady Gaga will come to Israel as planned,” producer Udi Appleboim said after the international superstar confirmed that the show on Saturday night at Hayarkon Park would take place as scheduled. “It is an honor to host her for a historic concert.”

Gaga is apparently a fan of Israel, having performed here on the cusp of superstardom in 2009, and just last week issuing a video supporting her Israeli fans and wishing them “Shalom.”

Like Madonna before her, who attracted thousands of fans from abroad to her 2012 MDNA tour debut at the park, the Gaga show in support of her latest number one album – artRAVE: The Artpop Ball – is expected to also draw a strong international fan base, according to Appleboim.

The extravaganza, which has already sold 775,000 tickets in 35 cities around the world, includes set changes, complex choreography and several costumes, including a polka-dot octopus suit and giant gold wings.

But will it include Tony Bennett? The 87-year-old timeless entertainer is performing a mere 24 hours after Gaga – on Sunday night September 14 at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv – and rumors have been running rampant ever since the shows were booked of a possible Gaga-Bennett duet at one or both of the shows.

It happened in July at the Montreal Jazz Festival when Gaga surprised the audience by joining Bennett’s set to perform several songs off their upcoming jazz collaboration release Cheek to Cheek.

But according to sources from one of the Israeli production teams, even though there’s a new album to promote and a Tel Aviv duet would likely make international headlines, the decision will likely come down to logistics regarding arrival and departure times.

But it doesn’t seem like Bennett is in need of any support onstage. Famous for standards like “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” Bennett has won 17 Grammy Awards over a career that boasted its first number one hit in 1951 with “Because of You.” But by the end of the 1970s, left behind by the rock era and addicted to hard drugs, Bennett and his career were on the brink. Guided by his son Danny, he slowly regained his health, his vocal prowess returned and, thanks to some crafty marketing placement – such as frequent appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and a wildly successful MTV Unplugged special in 1994 – he became a “hip” institution for a new generation in the 1990s, introducing young audiences to the magic of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. The New York Times wrote that Bennett “has not just bridged the generation gap, he has demolished it.”

Bennett’s connection with Gaga was forged when she guested on his 2011 album Duets II, a follow-up to Duets: An American Classic, released in 2006 to mark his 80th birthday.

According to an interview in Billboard magazine in the US, Bennett said that he and Gaga had been planning to make an album together ever since.

“She’s a sensational jazz singer...

and this is going to be the first time that people realize she’s quite the singer. They’re going to be fascinated by how well she sings and improvises jazz,” he said.

With Cheek to Cheek being released later this month, its first single – a rendition of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” – has already topped the Jazz Digital Songs chart. And the unlikely couple will continue to make waves with the TV special Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE! debuting in the US in October on PBS.

For Bennett, it’s all part of his desire to keep educating younger fans about the Great American Songbook that he’s helped keep alive. His new secret weapon? Lady Gaga.

“Gaga has that audience in the palm of her hand,” Bennett told Billboard, “and by doing this with her, it’ll go right to those little kids.

They’ll grow up listening to this music. It’s great music, and it’s never going to become dated. It’s never going to become old fashioned. It’s very intelligent music that everybody, and especially these young people, need to know and appreciate.”

So whether fans choose Lady Gaga on Saturday night or Tony Bennett on Sunday night, they’ll have made the right decision. And if they’re really lucky, they might even get both of them together.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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