Paul Anka started his show at Proctors on Tuesday night by singing “You Are My Destiny” from behind the audience, walking down the aisle shaking hands and hugging women. People reached out to get a touch or any kind of attention.
Later on he stepped off the stage again to slow dance with a woman in the audience during “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” He walked the aisles for the next six songs, including “She’s a Lady,” which he wrote for Tom Jones.
The full house sang and clapped and some danced at their seats. The room was full of smiles. This was their guy singing their generation of music. At one point he asked “everyone under 60” to sing a verse of “Hometown,” but then waved them off, as if there were no one that young in the house.
“I see you like the oldies,” he shouted after this, staying in the audience and singing the first line from the next song: “And they called it Puppy Love.”
The songs were short and came quickly, punctuated by horns, drums, percussion and keyboards. He could have come with a three-piece band. Instead, the 11-piece band brought every tune to a dramatic crescendo, Anka building the song with his hands and arms waving high and wide to finish. It was a lot of Broadway and Las Vegas.
With his dark hair and a black suit on his thin figure, Anka, in his early 70s, sang with a strong voice and moved well around the stage for a full two hours.
After singing “For Once in My Life,” he said, “It’s an anniversary this month. Fifty-seven years I’ve been doing this.”
He introduced “The Times of Your Life” as a commercial jingle he wrote for Eastman Kodak, then turned it into a song. He played a grandiose video — his lyrics are often grandiose, as in “My Way” — showing him on Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson, teenage girls screaming for him, and his name on big marquees around the world.
Then came images of his five daughters, when he all told us, “PMS means ‘Paul must suffer.’ ”
The ’70s AM hits never stopped, and surely there are plenty we didn’t hear. “Having My Baby” was a sing-along, and then the band swung for a bit for the first time. Through the night the musicians read their parts, and there was a stiffness to the group, but this song moved well.
“The ’50s were great,” but the ’60s not so much, Anka said. “The Beatles wiped us off the chart.”
He was full of corny one-liners through the night that his older audience loved, and he threw in an equal number of patriotic ones that were equally received.
There was no other singing besides him — except some background vocals during a doo-wop cover — and no instrumental solos. It was Anka and nothing else. To his credit, he didn’t need a break for the two hours.
He had glowing words for Sammy Davis Jr., “the greatest entertainer,” who asked him to write a song for him. Anka took a seat and watched with us an old video of Davis sing the song “I’m Not Anyone.” An interesting move. Anka joined him half-way through the song.
He sat on a stool with his group, strapped on an acoustic guitar and played a low-key song, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” a country tune he wrote for Buddy Holly.
Encore and out
For an encore he sang “My Way,” the quintessential Las Vegas tune that Sinatra made famous, for which Anka wrote the lyrics.
He seems to have a lot of performance left — the lights were on, people were leaving, and he was still on stage — and enjoys living on his four decades of hits. As long as he can stand on stage and sing, he probably will. And from his vibrant show Tuesday night, he may outlive his audience.
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