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Pop Music Review : Sinatra In Top Form In Orange County

June 24, 1986|DON HECKMAN

Frank Sinatra remains the most dependably persuasive voice in the history of American popular music. Any doubters obviously were not in attendance Sunday night at the Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, when Sinatra, now six months into his 71st year, gave a performance that should be preserved in a time capsule for the edification of future generations.

Roving the stage with a trademark glass of Jack Daniels in one hand and a gold microphone in the other, Sinatra sang old songs and new, joked with music director Bill Miller and guitarist Tony Mottola, told Dean Martin gags and generally treated the full house as though it were sharing a raconteur's evening in his living room.

Except for an occasional quaver on some of the slower material, the Voice was in great shape, with the impeccable phrasing, the rich, dark chest tones, the jazz-based rhythmic accents all intact. On "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "Moonlight in Vermont" he slid easily and dramatically up into last-phrase modulations that brought showers of bobbysoxer-like squeals from his predominantly middle-aged audience.

On "Someone to Watch Over Me" (with a seductive string arrangement by Nelson Riddle), "One for My Baby" (his "saloon" song) and "April in Paris," Sinatra demonstrated the subtle but powerful acting skills that have made him such a persuasive storyteller.

The swinging Sinatra was up front on the now-classic "I Get a Kick Out of You" (arranged by Neil Hefti), "For Once in My Life" and "Mack the Knife." Standing stage center, one leg forward, chest out, he rode the rhythms of his 40-plus orchestra with the aggressive certainty of an improvising jazz player. It's no wonder musicians love to work with him.

The remainder of his 19-song program was filled with everything from bossa nova to what he called his "pain-in-the-butt song"--"My Way." It was an evening to remember from a performer of the century.

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