Review: Michael Buble opens tour with charisma, good humor at Tampa's Amalie Arena

The crooner swiveled through standards, cracked wise on Sarasota and quoted Cardi B. What else could you want from a pre-Valentine's Day concert?
Published February 13
Updated February 14

This being Valentine’s week and all, Michael Buble decided to kick off his first full North American tour in five years by speaking from the heart.

“A lot of things happened in five years,” he told fans at Tampa’s Amalie Arena Wednesday night. “The world has changed. I’ve changed. Five years; a lot of bad things, but a lot of good things. And one of those good things that I am so thankful for…”

And here he trailed off, thinking about -- what, exactly? His young son’s battle with cancer? His decision to take a break from the business to spend time with family? What!?

“…is Cardi B. Okurrrr? She’s the greatest singer I’ve ever heard in my life! Let me just hear you say, Okurrrr!”

Okurrrr, indeed. If fans expected Buble’s American comeback to be all wispy and weepy, they had another thing coming. The Canadian crooner’s show filled the house not only with his signature blue-steel vocals and dynamite backing band, but his likably irreverent sense of humor.

And he was all too eager to share it with his beloved blue-haired diehards.

Before the tour, “I was in Sarasota for a week and a half,” he said. “A week and a half in Sarasota reminded me of living in the Walking Dead television show. Every time I’d go to Starbucks, I’d just walk by people going, ‘Aunnngh!” And it wasn’t my brains that they wanted. It was Metamucil and prune juice.”

Not exactly your typical pre-Valentine’s Day patter. But then again, Buble came not to sling schmaltz, but to swing. Opener Feeling Good was all but a Bond them, with Buble appearing beneath a giant, dramatic, eclipsing moon backed by even more dramatic horns. He glad-handed the front-row set during Haven’t Met You Yet and snapped and swiveled his way through (Up A) Lazy River and When You’re Smiling.

"I feel that I have the energy of a 95,000-year-old right now," he panted. "It took a lot out of me, dancing like that."

He had to be feeding off the big band behind him. Those dapper hornsmen shouting out backing vocals on When You’re Smiling! Those strings warming the place up on Home! The smaller B-stage arrangement of Buona Sera would’ve slayed with any vocalist, but with Buble in charge, it made you wish he’d record a full LP of Louis Prima covers then and there.

Every once in a while, Buble would tug at the heartstrings with a ballad like Forever Now, which he called “the greatest song I’ve ever written in my life.” And then near the very end, before a cover of Willie Nelson's You Were Always On My Mind, he nearly broke up, telling the crowd that the doctor who saved his son's life happens to be in Tampa for a symposium this week, and was in the crowd that night. A "superhero," Buble called him.

But really, he was just here for a good time. After a couple more okurrrrs and a teeny bit of Biggie’s Hypnotize (you heard me) he tossed in a randy cover of Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell, inspired by a pre-tour viewing of Pulp Fiction. And he followed that with a second-line march that blossomed into the jittery Nobody But Me, and the colossally cinematic Cry Me a River. By the time he hit Everything in the encore, even the Sarasotans in the house were up and singing.

"It's been magic tonight, and it all goes too fast," he said near the end.

But what a way to whirl into Valentine's Day, huh? Give that man another okurrrr for the road.

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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