The very first time he heard Michael Buble sing, Hempfield’s John Noble asked out loud, “Who is that?”
“The second thing I said was ‘What kind of name is Buble — ‘boo-blay!!’?” recalls the veteran entertainer and popular Frank Sinatra tribute artist with a smile.
While he has always been captivated by Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., and, in his later years, Tony Bennett, Noble says when he would hear Mel Torme sing he would stop what he was doing and listen, just plain listen, to his “velvet fog.”
To Noble, Buble, who headlines a concert Feb. 22 at PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, has that same velveteen Torme quality.
“So, out of nowhere, Canada of all places, comes this Sinatra-sounding crooner,” Noble says. “His voice, his sound, made me stop and listen that very first time back in 2003 and appreciate this not-yet-30-year-old singing my favorite kind of Big Band music: ‘Come Fly with Me,’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight,’ among other standards.”
Honoring the Great American Songbook
It has been suggested that Buble could have very easily fit into the heyday of their era, and even the period when the ink was still wet on the Great American Songbook, to which Buble adds, “I wish I was more nostalgic about it, but I’m really not.”
Part of it is being sincere, being himself and being OK with it, he says.
“I looked to Sinatra and Bennett and Bobby Darin and tried to borrow from them,” he says. “I’m lucky enough to say I got to hang out with Tony Bennett a lot and even people like Englebert Humperdinck, who has been really cool, and to ask them questions and get their support. That’s been huge.”
He is a guy, he says, born in 1975, singing songs that are timeless, taking his experiences and wins and losses and the love his family gave him into his music.
When people asked him, “Why can’t you do something new?” he told them that these songs should not be discarded.
What he is
“Some of these songs should be celebrated. I’m an interpreter,” he explains. “And it’s exciting to think that I can remind people how timeless these songs are and introduce them to new generations.”
On his new album, “Love,” which he believes is the best of his career and “a wonderful journey about love,” he celebrates Sinatra and his early Columbia Records years with his take on “Young at Heart.”
“I’ve sung the song for years but it’s taken on new meaning for me now as a parent,” Buble says.
Power of hope and prayer
Hope and prayer, he says, is what got him and his family through the ordeal of his young son Noah’s successful battle with liver cancer. During that period, the entertainer was not certain that he ever wanted to record or tour again, because he wanted to focus on his family, “My entire world view has changed completely these last few years. During that time I also learned how much love and humanity is out in the world from the prayers and good wishes we received,” he says. “But slowly, along with understanding what my priorities in life are, I began to feel a new commitment to express the emotions and lessons I’ve embraced. I have had so many blessings in life and one of them is that I hold the torch to keep these songs alive for generations to come.”
He now feels a new sense of freedom to create and he is taking that expression once again to the world’s stages.
Buble already has sold more than 60 million records worldwide, performed hundreds of sold-out shows around the globe, and won four Grammys and multiple Juno awards, the Canadian Grammy, during the course of his career.
Buble adds: I’m a very lucky guy and I never want to forget it.
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Michael Buble plays PPG Paints Arena