What is love if not a mix of the sublime and the silly?
Michael Buble acknowledged as much near the top of his two-hour performance Monday night at American Airlines Center.
“There are 15,000 people in here,” he said, clad in a dapper black suit and sporting a light scruff. “We can make this an intimate and beautiful and romantic evening like it should be.”
The fully stuffed room — aware of the irony involved considering a sports arena to be anything resembling cozy, and replete with couples of all ages enmeshed in date nights of varying elaboration — murmured its approval. But Buble didn’t stop there.
“It’s a bonus Valentine’s night!” the Canadian crooner crowed, as applause rippled through the enthusiastic audience.
As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and it was evident from the moment the 43-year-old singer-songwriter materialized in the spotlight at the top of the curved, expansive stage that he would have a willing partner all night.
Monday’s turn marked his first on a North Texas stage in nearly six years, and the pop singer, touring behind his latest studio album, last year’s Love, made it clear that, for him, absence did nothing but make his heart grow fonder.
“I’m so happy to be here tonight,” he began, gazing out into the crowd. “I stand here tonight with an attitude of gratitude. I’m grateful for many blessings, some of which I count as you.”
Weaving between pop and jazz standards, with plenty of chestnuts from the Great American Songbook making an appearance, Buble — his lustrous lyric baritone, as affable and magnetic as his punchy, droll personality — was in fine form throughout. The stage reached deep into the room and allowed Buble to move freely among his fervent fans, snapping selfies and slapping high-fives.
He was backed by more than 30 musicians, seated on risers, including an all-female string section (which he described as being a “Dallas section” but didn’t elaborate), all of whom Buble rightly cited as a point of pride.
“There’s no pyrotechnics, no confetti – I invested my money in the greatest musicians in the world.”
It was money well-spent. The live musicians added a spark of energy Buble consistently fed off of all night, whether the mood was elated, as it was during “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Sway” or “Such a Night,” or more subdued, when he became emotional, talking about his parents being in attendance for the first time during this tour, and paying tribute to his late grandfather before launching into “(Up a) Lazy River.”
Buble also made sure to include plenty of chatty asides, expounding at length about his day off spent out and about in Uptown with his family ("You just booed it … I don’t know what it means”), as well as his love of Owen Wilson, 7-Eleven and Slurpees.
“There’s some kind of charm that transcends,” Buble said. “I love your city – I truly do.”
Some of it was probably standard insert-city-I’m-currently-performing-in patter, sure, but like everything else Buble did onstage Monday night, it also felt unerringly genuine. For all the slick style and smooth presentation, Buble is never not his relatable, goofy self. That puppy-dog willingness to be the butt of the joke – one late highlight was musical director Alan Chang playfully sniping at Buble, via the singer’s in-ear monitor, during one of his introductions where he glossed over Chang’s songwriting contributions – helps close the gap for those who might find the whole enterprise cloying to the point of nausea.
The night was mostly an excuse to continually surf a wave of endorphins. As the concert built to its climax, which came as a tight combo joined Buble at the far end of the stage’s runway for a “nightclub” mini-set featuring Louis Prima (“Buona Sera Signorina”), Irving Caesar (“Just a Gigolo”) and Chuck Berry (“You Never Can Tell”) staples, I found myself reflecting upon something Buble had said much earlier, before his fans were gleefully dancing in the aisles and holding their loved ones a little tighter.
“I only want joy in my life,” he said. “When I come out here, I want to spread joy.”
In an age of so much anxiety, dread and division, what’s not to love about such a sentiment?