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The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:29 am

1974 was, on the whole not a good year for Sinatra. He released an album of swing versions of recent hits called Some Nice Things I Missed which, in all accounts, bombed. And rightfully so. Despite a couple of smattering of decent ballads, an album with Sinatra swinging Tie A Yellow Riibbon Around The Old Oak Tree was never really going to be rescued, although I have to say I rate the version of Bad Bad Leroy Brown more highly that jazz critic Will Friedwald. One song, Satisfy Me One More Time, was even ridiculed on radio due to a near-60 year old Sinatra singing about being stripped and being kissed all over from his elbows to his knees. The excerpt from the radio show was on youtube, but appears to have disappeared. To add to the disappointing album, both artistically and commercially, Sinatra also found himself in hot water in Australia when he insulted their journalists.

in Autumn 1974, he began a tour of America's east coast, including a concert at Madison Square Garden which was to be broadcast live on American TV. After his triumphant return to performing and recording the year before with a TV special and album, Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back, the TV special was to cap everything. It didn't really succeed, as shown in the fact that the so-called soundtrack album of the special was pieced together from some six different concerts (in six different locations), with some numbers spliced from different performances. If Presley was seemingly too relaxed on his live broadcast the year before, Sinatra was quite the opposite. Having to stop and start his performance at MSG to accomodate commercial breaks, he never got into his flow, and the strains of a live outside broadcast clearly got to him. Watching the DVD of the event finds Sinatra in a seemingly bad mood, showing a great deal of impatience with the audience:


What's more, the pacing of the show seemed all wrong. in the hour-long show, Sinatra got through just 11 songs and a ridiculously over the top introduction by Howard Cossell which runs for nearly three minutes as Sinatra makes his way to the boxing ring-style stage. Sinatra may have allowed himself to built up like a boxer, but he is all talk and little punch. And Sinatra does a lot of talking, which is really not always a good thing. This is Sinatra at his most big-headed, with his monologue prior to The House I Live In almost nauseatingly patriotic. The performances are actually fine, and it's hard to tell why there was a need to cull them from other shows for the accompanying album.

The problem here is that Sinatra comes over as so unlikeable on this occasion. Throughout the late 1960s, his annual TV specials were often stunning. A Man And His Music won an Emmy in 1965, the Man and his Music + Ella + Jobim special from 1967 has been called one of the greatest hours of music on television and all shows inbetween, bar Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing, were fine efforts. Throughout these shows, Sinatra was relaxed and clearly enjoying himself - something which is sadly missing in The Main Event. Ironically, Sinatra is below par for quite the opposite reason that Presley was in his live TV special eighteen months earlier. While Presley was coasting for the most part, Sinatra was trying to hard and letting the event get to him. While Sinatra did not avoid live television in future years, every one of the TV specials that followed were recorded and not live. A good decision, it has to be said. All of the Sinatra concerts available to us on DVD are far superior to this one, and in no other did Sinatra appear to sport the ego that is so much in presence here.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:49 am

Interesting critique Peter. However, I must disagree with the idea that Elvis coasted on his show. He dieted which must have been a painful process to get in shape for the show. His wardrobe was picked with meticulous care. His repertoire was considerably altered to accommodate a good number of new or unfamiliar songs. I think any assessment that he was cruising is purely subjective based upon the style of the performance that Elvis delivered that evening. You're entitled to that impression of course. However, Elvis' mindset, which of course we can never know for sure, is best represented by the deliberate preparation that he put into the show. Relaxed performance or not, such a break from routine is at least misclassified as "cruising."

Sadly, I haven't seen the Sinatra show you mention. However, based on your very fine critique, it seems as if the same things that made Elvis seem too relaxed were also the same things that irritated Sinatra, the need to be in absolute control in a potentially unpredictable environment.

I think Sinatra is an apt comparison for Elvis' live show at this point in time. Elvis, by this point, saw himself in the grand tradition of American singers where the individual song that the singer sings is less important than the fact is the singer is singing it.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:04 pm

I'm very much fond of The Main Event in spite of Sinatra sounding a bit rough in places and the disruptive nature of live television having to facilitate advertisements. The latter certainly bothered Sinatra and doesn't quite allow the show to find its best cadence, but I see a love affair between singer and audience here that works both ways -- Frank was more than eager, and eager to please, and the 20,000 in attendance lapped up every moment.

I certainly see where you're coming from in comparing The Main Event to Aloha -- both playing live to international audiences in 1973 and 1974 respectively, both being trumpeted as major television events with album releases to follow and both (I think) underwhelming you considerably. Aloha was certainly the big ratings winner of the two and spawned a more successful album release both with regards to chart placings and sales. But from a performance standpoint, I very much prefer The Main Event. Both as a television special and the subsequent live album which, as you've commented, wasn't drawn entirely from this concert but Sinatra's October 1974 tour -- half of the twelve tracks are from this show, however. I even like Howard Cosell's introduction, the purpose of which was not merely for added hype, but to play on the theme of Sinatra as the "champ," the main event of the evening at Madison Square Garden on a stage set-up with a boxing ring in mind, complete with ringside seats. This, the concept of Jerry Weintraub, who sold the special to Sinatra on these themes -- Cosell, in particular. And Sinatra was a knockout, in my opinion -- his voice was surely coarse on occasion, through much inactivity and lack of regular and intensive use over the previous three years. And here is the comparison with Elvis I've more often drawn from this event, Presley's own voice suffering the same audible strains having entered into a period of more intensive preparation and performance for the '68 special - and subsequent shows in Vegas - than he had been accustomed to during the years prior.

And if this wasn't a night for subtleties or greater finesse - Sinatra and Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd making certain of that - the likes of Angel Eyes and Autumn in New York are wholly compelling next to hard swung brass and Sinatra giving the ultimate rendition of My Way. The event - and his swagger - wholly appropriate to this song. Whilst, You Are the Sunshine of My Life and My Kind of Town are a complete joy -- especially next to an earnest The House I Live In and a most heartfelt Let Me Try Again. And watch him work the stage during Bad, Bad Leroy Brown!

This was Sinatra approaching sixty years of age and about to enter into a rich and rewarding latter stage of his career that would find him back in top voice and on better form than during this particular concert, but I do think The Main Event lived up to its name and achieved what was expected of the show. Especially under the restrictions of live television during which timing was paramount. And Frank had certainly come a long way from The Paramount -- something he often alluded to during his New York shows.

Incidentally, there's much to enjoy on Sinatra's Some Nice Things I've Missed, although Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree is an absolute clanger. But I like Satisfy Me One More Time, finding it good humoured and infectious -- as is one of Frank's better country-flavoured recordings, I'm Gonna Make it All the Way.

I prefer Frank's live performances of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and You Are the Sunshine of My Life -- the latter, especially, being a song he relished performing on stage. Although, I do like his studio recording. Whilst Neil Diamond has cited Frank's swinging version of Sweet Caroline as his favourite cover of this song. I enjoy it, too.

The Summer Knows, What's Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? and You Turned My World Around are all quite stunning, though -- and belong on a more coherent album. The latter is a great example of how terrific Sinatra's vocal range still was at this stage of his career. Whilst, If is a lovely song that Sinatra handles with care and sincerity, although, I also prefer his live performances of this one.

Some Nice Things I've Missed is probably the least of all Sinatra's albums and is easy to criticise because of the obvious -- it's uneven, a few tracks are poorly chosen and it doesn't offer much of a cohesive listening experience. Which is frustrating, because of how good the best material is here -- making this barely a novel concept, but a curio because of the highlights. And how disappointing this is after the overall excellence of Ol' Blue Eyes is Back. It would be a further six years until the release of Sinatra's next studio album, and what was deficient in Some Nice Things I've Missed was compensated for tenfold with the extraordinary Trilogy: Past, Present and Future.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:27 pm

The good thing about Satisfy Me and I'm Gonna Make It All The Way is their sense of humour - with the rhyming couplet at the end of the latter really quite unexpected after the cry-in-your-beer nature of the song up to that point.

Perhaps the fault with The Main Event is the timing issue. Sinatra has too much time to fill. Presley had used his time wisely and made sure that this wasn't going to be an issue for him. As with his own shows at MSG the year before, presley realised that the best way to time things to perfection was to let the music do the talking. The songs, with the exception of hitches, would always last the same amount of time from performance to performance and so the hour could be timed correctly if he kept the chat to a bear minimum. Sinatra did the opposite, with his approach being that he could always talk if they ran early, and cut the talk if he ran over time. Perhaps under normal circumstances this would have been a good approach - his monologues could be quite entertaining as the Sands album from 1966 shows. But here was nervous and tetchy and he comes across as irritable. If Sinatra never got into his stride, it was his own fault. Less talking would have meant more singing, and each segment of the show could at least have been a mini-set of three or four songs. But Sinatra doesn't allow himself that privilege and pays the price. His concert at MSG the night before runs for roughly the same length and yet contains three more songs (What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life, Send In the Clowns and If), none of which are exactly short. The individual songs are performed well, but I just don't believe it works either as a concert or a piece of television.

That said, Sinatra's shows during this period were very slow-paced, with the Sydney and Melbourne shows from the same year really dragging, and even the much-praised Carnegie Hall show being a touch disappointing. On average, Sinatra was performing just 12-14 songs over the course of an hour. By the following April he was up to 16-20 songs in the same time frame, and that figure often includes a lengthy saloon song medley of about 10 minutes.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sun Jul 22, 2012 3:18 am

Timing was certainly an issue with The Main Event and Cosell's introduction plus commercial breaks allowed for less time - and, subsequently, less songs - than other, non-televised shows from the same tour. But I don't see a nervous or irritable Sinatra here, although he's certainly conscious of the time, aware of his performance and caught on the hop when lead towards commercials. This wasn't an issue with Aloha, because Elvis's show wasn't shown live in the USA -- whilst, there seems to be little adherence to such in respect to international live broadcasts. Some regions may have had none, or certainly fewer than their American counterparts, and perhaps cut away when able. But this wasn't a concern of Elvis's during his performance -- Sinatra, on the other hand, had to directly contend with such.

The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:31 pm

Well, Sinatra did more tv shows live, like the stunning concert for the Americas or live in Japan. And the recently released MSG entire show on the New York box set is quite good. He was very tired that October 74 tour, as nancy has always stated.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:20 pm

frus75 wrote:Well, Sinatra did more tv shows live, like the stunning concert for the Americas or live in Japan. And the recently released MSG entire show on the New York box set is quite good. He was very tired that October 74 tour, as nancy has always stated.

Were the Americas concert and Japan broadcast live, though? I don't think so - or, at least if they were Sinatra didn't have to stop every ten minutes for advert breaks! The Americas concert is perhaps the greatest video record we have of the aging Sinatra in concert. It's a wonderful show, with Sinatra in full command from beginning to end, and even includes a couple of rarities such as the beautiful Searching. I was surprised by the Carnegie Hall concert on the New York box, and the fact that Sinatra screwed up the first two songs - presumably that's why it hasn't had an official release before. When he gets into his stride he's great, but the first third of the show is not great. I haven't heard that complete MSG concert for a while, I'll have to dig it out and give it a spin.

The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sat Oct 13, 2012 9:45 pm

Btw, have the concord releases stopped? It's been quite a while since the concert Sinatra.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:04 am

Neither Concert for the Americas or Sinatra in Japan were broadcast live -- the former actually comprises of footage from two concerts. Both specials, however, were splendid in almost every respect. The latter, especially, which - in my opinion - excels above most concert specials that I've seen or can recall. Sinatra was on tremendous form those nights in the Dominican Republic, and with a stellar set-list, an orchestra of the highest calibre, an extraordinary appearance by Buddy Rich and a grand setting, one could ask for little more. Especially from a singer who was just a few months away from his sixty-seventh birthday, but very much at the top of his game.

I haven't heard anything from Concord regarding upcoming projects, but a fine job has been done in updating Sinatra's Reprise catalogue thus far. Forthcoming, however, are Blu-ray releases of Suddenly and Von Ryan's Express. Suddenly has been restored from its original 35mm elements, which have been transferred to HD. Hopefully, both films will look marvellous on Blu-ray -- something that's almost a certainty for Von Ryan's Express, but it will be interesting to see what's accomplished with Suddenly.

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:11 am

You mean this show, Pete ? I thought he was OK. Incidentally where the hell is July 16 1974 Sydney concert film coming out ?

Re: The Main Event: Sinatra's Aloha.

Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:33 am

Robt wrote:You mean this show, Pete ? I thought he was OK. Incidentally where the hell is July 16 1974 Sydney concert film coming out ?

Oh yes! grrrrrr