Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anka brings 'Las Vegas' to U. P.

Veteran singer-songwriter and Las Vegas
entertainer Paul Anka brought his show to the
Island Resort and Casino last weekend.


Singer-songwriter Paul Anka brought his hits-laden Las Vegas show to the Island Resort and Casino in Harris last weekend.

With more than 50 charting songs to his credit, Anka had no trouble filling the June 5 and 6 performances with crowd-pleasing material.

A performer since age 12, Anka's first hit was the chart-topping "Diana" from 1957. He continued to score hits in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Besides composing most of his own hits, Anka penned "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" for Buddy Holly and "She's a Lady" for Tom Jones. He wrote the theme for the "Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and penned the English lyrics for Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

Backed by a 12-piece orchestra directed by Jon Crosse, Anka surprised the crowd by singing "Take Me Down" as he entered the theater from behind the audience.

A native of Ottawa, Ontario, Anka wasted little time getting to "Diana," his mega-hit from 1957. While the song reigned supreme in the United States for just seven days, it topped the pop chart in Britain for nine weeks. "I'm so young and you're so old," Anka sang about the 19-year-old babysitter he had a crush on as a teenager.

The international superstar turned in his version of "For Once In My Life," the Motown hit for Stevie Wonder, before delivering "You Are My Destiny," his Top Ten composition from 1958.

Anka saluted Bobby Darin with "Mack the Knife," the Record of the Year for 1959 and followed with "(All Of a Sudden) My Heart Sings," another smash from '58.

As a video summarized his career, Anka sang "Times of Your Life," his hit from 1975. The song was originally a jingle for Kodak cameras.

Anka turned in an emotional version of "Papa," a song he wrote about the death of his beloved mother at age 39. She had encouraged her son's musical ambitions, listening his songs in the basement of their home before he sang them in public.

Knowing the audience was expecting to hear his early hits, the crooner reeled them off in quick succession, performing "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" (#2, 1959), "Puppy Love" (#2, 1960), "Lonely Boy" (#1, 1959), "My Home Town" (#8, 1960) and Eso Beso (#19, 1962).

Anka sang "Lonely Boy" in the motion picture "Girls Town," which also starred Mel Torme and Mamie Van Doren. "Puppy Love," meanwhile, addressed his feelings for Disney star Annette Funicello.

Showing his composing skills, Anka sang "She's a Lady," which he wrote for Tom Jones. Released in 1971, the song was the biggest hit Jones ever recorded.

On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landing at Normandy, Anka dedicated "The Longest Day" to the American heroes of that World War II battle. He wrote the theme song and made a cameo appearance in the 1962 movie of the same name. A giant American flag was displayed at the back of the stage as Anka sang the song for the Harris audience, earning him a standing ovation.

Anka played piano on "Do I Love You?" which included an attention-grabbing sax solo from Crosse, Anka's musical arranger since 1983. "More" followed.

The show returned to the 1950s when Anka played acoustic guitar on a song he wrote for Buddy Holly. "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" became a hit for Holly in the weeks after he was killed in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959. Anka and Holly became friends when they toured Australia together. "May he rest in peace," Anka said.

Anka continued the acoustic set with Don Gibson's "Oh, Lonesome Me" from 1958 and "Bye Bye Love", a 1957 hit for the Everly Brothers.

The full orchestra returned for "Hold Me Till the Morning Comes," which Anka recorded with the rock group Chicago.

Anka has written more than 700 songs, including "I'm Not Anyone" for Sammy Davis Jr. The casino audience was shown a video clip of Davis singing the song, which unfortunately did not become a hit for the late entertainer.

The 67-year-old Anka followed with "Jubilation," a tune he wrote for Barbra Streisand. The song was a showcase for demonstrating the instrumental versatility of Anka's orchestra and brought the audience to its feet.

Anka began a three-song tribute to Frank Sinatra with "Let Me Try Again (Laisse Moi Le Temps)." Anka and Sammy Cahn are credited with writing English lyrics for the French song.

"My Way," one of Anka's most-recognized songs, came next in the program. Anka had taken "Comme d'Habitade," by Jacques Reveau, Claude Francois and Gilles Thibaut, and applied his own lyrics to the song. "My Way" became a hit for both Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

"Theme from New York, New York," brought the Sinatra trilogy to a close.

Anka concluded his Las Vegas show with "Twist and Shout" and a brief reprise of the classic "Diana."

The prolific songwriter didn't perform "(You're) Having My Baby," "One Man Woman/ One Woman Man," "I Don't Sleep Alone," and "(I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger Than Our Love." All four hits were duets with Odia Coates from the mid-70s.

More than five decades after "Diana," Anka continues to dazzle audiences with his impressive songwriting and performance skills.

Judging from the shows he staged in the Upper Peninsula last weekend, Anka is likely to remain a top draw in Las Vegas and around the world for years to come.

No comments: