It is so much better to see a musical act when they are in their prime, voice intact and making records that still matter. But sometimes that is not an option. Either you were too young when they first appeared on the scene or they split up or died before you ever had a chance to attend one of their concerts. Occasionally an act does surprise and continues to make great music way later in their career or has an amazing creative resurrection (Leonard Cohen is one that comes to mind).
I’ve seen a lot of great artists the first time they were around, but there have been several who I only caught towards the end of their career or life, when it seemed the only reason to really go see them was because…well, so you could say you did. I guess the big two in this category would be Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Yeah, I saw them and here is my story of one of those experiences…
Frank Sinatra was one of the very few artists that I cared about that I had never seen. One who was still performing. He wasn’t dead or hadn’t broke up. It was in 1989 at the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, about twenty minutes south of San Francisco. The venue was a theater in the round, featuring a rotating circular stage with none of its 3,743 seats further than 50 feet from the stage, making it a wonderful place to see and hear almost anyone. I sat only a few rows from the stage so I could see everything pretty clearly, including the small teleprompter close to the Sinatra’s feet, feeding him song lyrics.
By this time in his career, Frank Sinatra was coasting on his history and longevity. His voice was limited and his presence aloof. He made it through lifeless versions of classics like Come Fly with Me, The Lady is a Tramp, Summer Wind, Strangers in the Night ending with his most recent hit (from nine years earlier), New York, New York. It wasn’t a bad show, but it was short and somewhat impersonal as he hocked his new line of Sinatra’s Pasta Sauces in-between songs. So I was fortunate to have seen Frank Sinatra perform in concert, but I wish I had seen him when he was in his prime and still wearing those wonderful classic hats.
But then, there was this one time, when I was a young boy, that I actually saw the real Frank Sinatra in person and not someone just playing the part. I was walking with my parents through the lobby of either the Sands Hotel or the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, when in walks Sinatra with his large entourage. I was more familiar with his movies than his music at that time, so it was a very exciting experience. Frank Sinatra the actor. Frank Sinatra the movie star. The Chairman of the Board had entered the building. I’ll never forget seeing that great Hat Man on that day and these images represent the Frank Sinatra that I want to always remember.
Some of my favorite Frank Sinatra Albums: Come Dance With Me, Only the Lonely, In the Wee Small Hours, Sinatra Swings, Sinatra at the Sands, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonia Carlos Jobim, Strangers in the Night and Sinatra’s Sinatra. But The Capitol Years Box Set is da bomb!!!