Concert review: Michael Buble brings suave showmanship to Gwinnett

By: Melissa Ruggieri

Published: October 28, 2013

Some might categorize Michael Buble as a toothless wannabe. A guy who makes a handsome living singing (mostly) classic songs and skating by on charisma nicely packaged in a tuxedo and an endearing smile.

They would be wrong.

Sure, Buble is (mostly) a song stylist bred on the suaveness of Tony Bennett and cheeky cool of Frank Sinatra.

But he’s more than a mimic. He possesses his own style, the kind that has him finger-snapping through a set-opening “Fever,” all sexy leans in a classic tux one minute, then upping his adorability factor to sing “Happy Birthday” to a little girl in the crowd the next, and, moments after that, grinning while responding to the crowd’s claps at the mention of his new son, “I take the applause like I did s***.”

Yep, Buble has some bite. He’s also playful, funny and an expert showman, all qualities on display during his two-hour show at The Arena at Gwinnett Center on Sunday.

Backed by a solid five-piece band and eight-member horn section, Buble had all the right ingredients: A large video screen behind the stage was often outlined like a classy picture frame, giving those in the rafters a clean view of his lightly stubbled face. A set list that hopscotched from his own breezy “Haven’t Met You Yet” to an intensely delivered cover of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” to a cha-cha rooted “Come Dance with Me.” And a gracious attitude toward his fans and band that went beyond the usual obligation.

In fact, Buble’s band intro – not usually a highlight at shows – was a memorable moment as the guys (many of them with him since his major-label debut in 2003) were introduced on screen in the form of sports trading cards.

While that band infused the set with layers of pristine instrumentation, many of Buble’s admirers likely relished his stripped down moments during Nat King Cole’s “That’s All” (enhanced by a female string section) and the new ballad “Close Your Eyes,” a paint-by-numbers love song that will nevertheless send millions of fans swooning, much like his rendition of “Home” did on Sunday.

“This is all yours. It belongs to you,” Buble, 38, told the crowd about the ubiquitous ballad that kicked his career to a new level in 2005.

Buble also momentarily dabbled in a current cover when Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” brought him into the audience to head to a slickly designed stage at the back of the arena.

There, he was joined by awesome opening act Naturally Seven for Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You” and a slow-burn version of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

It doesn’t matter if he’s tackling the Bee Gees or The Beatles, Randy Newman or celebrating his own “Beautiful Day,” Buble is anything but a wannabe.

He’s also savvy enough to tap Naturally Seven as tour openers.

Some might have missed the group’s 30-minute set due to the lengthy entrance lines (the additional steps needed for paperless ticket entry was the culprit), but those fortunate enough to catch them have plenty to brag about.

They refer to themselves as a “vocal play group” rather than a capella singers, which is accurate because what these, uh, seven guys do is beyond singing.

Using nothing but their voices and some body parts, Naturally Seven conjured instrument sounds from electric guitar to brass to drums. Whether rolling through Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” or rocking “Sunshine of Your Love” (who can’t appreciate Clapton’s guitar lines mimicked vocally?), the group was simply stunning.

They also presented a beautifully mesmerizing version of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” which rivaled the original for haunting emotion.

Naturally Seven will play its own full set at Center Stage on Monday.

Some advice: Make time to hear them.