That’s not really an accent on the final letter of Michael Bublé’s surname — it’s actually a typographical representation of a wink.
It seems like everything at a concert by Bublé — the George Clooney of crooners — is delivered with a wink. The jokes, the banter, the finger snaps, the tugging at the tuxedo jacket, the skater-like sliding moves, the heart-shaped confetti, the videos of a disco ball spinning and fireworks in slow motion, the introductions of his band members (like they were pro athletes splashed on a Jumbotron), the sequined dinner jacket, the song dedications, the schmaltz, the sap and the material, which ranged from the hip (Daft Punk) to the classic (Sinatra, Beatles, Motown).
Like Clooney, this guy knows how to charm, charm and charm some more. And that’s what he did for 105 minutes Wednesday at the sold-out Xcel Energy Center to the delight of the 12,000 fans. Once again, he was ham and cheese, slathered with lots of romantic dressing, on slices of dark and handsome. But there were major upgrades in the bread (what a killer tux and patent leather shoes) and plating (terrific staging with the band on a moving platform, video screens raising and lowering, and a giant screen outlined with an art deco frame).
And the performance was much improved from 2010’s Xcel show. Bublé — who turned 38 this week and became a father for the first time three weeks ago — is still a lovable lounge lizard at heart, but he attacks both his singing and the stage with the un-arrogant confidence of an entertainer who knows he should be there even though his music doesn’t honestly lend itself to an arena. But he has honored his aesthetic while satisfying the demand.
The Canadian idol draws women of all ages — from 80-year-old grandmas to middle-aged housewives to 21-year-olds, like the Argentine who didn’t speak English but fell in love and married him. Indeed, some husbands and boyfriends came along to the concert, too.
Bublé admitted to being an unabashed hopeless romantic. He apologized if that made him a softy in a world he called too cynical.
To be sure, his original material is terminally lovey-dovey, owing too much to sunny ’60s pop (“Haven’t Met You Yet,” “It’s a Beautiful Day”) and ’70s balladry (“Home”) that passes for country music these days. But he never essays to be hip or square. He just wants to be retro cool.
That’s why he plumbs the catalogs for so many classics. Bublé was at his best when he tried to re-imagine the oh-so-familiar. “Cry Me a River” was rerouted into a James Bond-ish movie theme. Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” was dialed down into the tenderest of ballads. Van Morrison’s usually intimate “Moondance” was celebrated in full-moon, big-band glory. The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” was stripped down and jazzy, with harmonies courtesy of Naturally 7 (the opening act) — the most adventurous musical move by Bublé all night.
And sometimes he even played it straight, like on the divinely romantic Nat King Cole ballad, “That’s All.”
But mostly he just played it with irresistible panache — and a wink you just couldn’t always see.
Set list: www.startribune.com/artcetera