Who: Paul Anka
Where: University Centre Auditorium
When: Wednesday night
Rating: 4 (out of five)
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What's that, you say? Anka's that old dude who was a teen idol in the late '50s? Maybe so ... but Paul is all right by me. He is Mr. Entertainment, Mr. 110 Per Cent, Mr. Las Vegas, Mr. Junior Rat Packer.
He is -- yes indeed -- the coolest man on the planet.
Take last night at University Centre Auditorium. The place is packed with the 60-plus crowd and yours truly. Tension builds when Anka is five minutes late, then 10, then 14. A smattering of that hey-where's-Paul clapping happens.
"Cool your boots, my friends," I think to myself. "Paul will not let us down."
And he did not. And more, much more than this ... he did it his way.
First of all, when Paul comes out, he is wearing a very hip, shiny dark suit. I figure it's worth, oh, maybe three grand. Maybe five. Paul looks highly tanned, very fit and when he smiles with those ultra-white Chiclets, it lights up the room like a 500-kilowatt halogen lamp.
And dig this. When Paul enters, he comes in from the back of the auditorium. There's Anka -- a mere three metres from me at one point -- belting out a razzle-dazzle version of Diana like it's 1957 all over again. He's glad-handing the crowd, kissing the odd gal. What a guy.
"Good evening, everybody! It's good to be back on your beautiful island," he says. Some ladies in the front row wave a jumbo Paul Anka poster. I think to myself: "Good for you, gals, because I sincerely second that emotion!"
Then Paul arises from the floor to the stage via the tiniest elevator platform I have ever seen. He and the 15-piece orchestra launch into a rousing For Once in My Life, then You Are My Destiny (which turns into a total sing-along). Throughout the evening the singing is punchy, energetic and often Paul -- who's 66 if he's a day -- does a nifty faux-karate kick to cap each tune.
When Anka shifts gears into Mack the Knife, the silver-haired gent beside me mutters "Oh, wow." Brother, he's not kidding. Paul starts it off slow, like he's playing with the tune or something. Just batting it around gently, like a disgruntled kitten. Then old Mack picks up volume, the drama rising. Wow, indeed. At this point, he notices a lady trying to take his picture. Paul, being the gent that he is, takes her camera and snaps himself -- just so she has one good close-up. Even cooler, he ad-libs these lyrics: "I was watching you trying to take it/ Don't worry, I won't break it."
At this point, a screen lowered, and Paul showed a short film titled something like, The Times of Your Life (my notebook is hard to read here). Lots of old black- and-white footage of Anka in his teen idol stage. Vintage stills of his daughters, each of whom has a name beginning with A.
At this point, to be honest, my faith is shaken. I mean, at this point I'm digging Paul big time. But a family scrapbook? Come on Mr. Anka.
Don't let me down.
And he does not. Immediately after the film, Paul launches into his big-band/swing version of Van Halen's Jump. It's a very, very groovy, finger-snapping version. Eddie Van Halen would be burning his Fender guitar if he was there. Not only that, Paul gets us all to jump in the air when that word comes up in the chorus. Very, very cool.
Other highlights: that feminist anthem Havin' My Baby, Put Your Head on My Shoulder (another sing-along!), Puppy Love, Lonely Boy and She's a Lady. I confess Paul brought me down a titch when he "dueted" with Sammy Davis Jr. (he sang with film footage of the late Sammy). It seemed a little, well, necrophilic to me. But then he kicked out the jams with My Way, the tune he penned for Old Blue Eyes.
Brother, you should have been there. Because they don't make them like Mr. Paul Anka anymore.
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