Charles Aznavour: Concert Review

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Charles Aznavour
Even at age 90, this legendary performer still has what it takes

The ageless singer thrilled his devoted fans in what was billed as his "Farewell Concert" in NYC

It would make perfect sense for Charles Aznavour to be giving his farewell concert in New York, as has been advertised for his show Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The French-Armenian singer/songwriter — who was named entertainer of the century in a 1998 CNN poll, beating out the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan — is, after all, 90 years old. Having written some 1,000 songs, sold over 100 million records and achieved cinema immortality via some 60 films, including Francois Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, he could well afford to rest on his laurels.

The thing is, however, that he’s been on a “farewell tour” since 2006, and is still going strong, with a new album soon to be released. And as he demonstrated in this show performed before an adoring crowd that included no shortage of his fellow countrymen, he hasn’t lost a step — literally, since he danced his trademark solo waltz while singing his hit “The Old Fashioned Way.”

Clad in his usual slim-cut black suit, the still-dapper performer displayed a vibrant physicality and wonderfully emotive vocals that, while understandably diminished, belied such self-deprecating remarks as “When I was young, I had this voice.” Joking about not being able to see or hear well and having to use a teleprompter to remember the lyrics, he sighed, “Ah, what can we do?”

Singing in English, French and a smattering of Spanish and accompanied by a seven-piece band and two back-up singers including his daughter, Aznavour performed such trademark numbers as “What Makes a Man,” “I Didn’t See the Time Go By,” “Ave Maria,” “The Sound of Your Name,” “Je voyage,” “La boheme,” and “She,” each greeted with a rapturous response. His weathered, husky voice only added emotional heft to the lyrics of such numbers as the trenchant “Mon ami, mon Judas,” the rueful “Happy Anniversary” and “Mes emmerdes,” the latter of which roughly translates as “Pretty Shitty Days.”

Proclaiming that “I love the past” before quickly adding, “of course, I love the future too,” he delivered a magnificent version of his classic “Yesterday, When I Was Young.” Written when he was just 40 years old, the song has gained an obvious added resonance that was accentuated by his mournful delivery of the final line, delivered without instrumental accompaniment: “The time has come to pay for yesterday, when I was young.”

If People Magazine revamped its contest to make it “The Sexiest Nonagenarian Alive,” Aznavour would surely win. We can only hope that this wasn’t his farewell New York City appearance, because this legendary performer can still clearly deliver the goods.

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