The audience poured into Van Wezel Performing Arts Center on Valentine’s Eve to hear soul singer Michael Bolton sing his hits. Single ladies and couples made up the majority of the crowd on a chilly night in Sarasota. At 65, Bolton is celebrating 50 years in the music business and a birthday on February 26th.
Just for a little background you might not know, Bolton was once a rocker in a band called “Blackjack” in the late 70’s with guitarist Bruce Kulick of KISS fame. Blackjack even opened for Ozzy once. Years later Michael and KISS’ Paul Stanley wrote the KISS tune “Forever” together.
Bolton was a starving musician when a friend suggested he try writing songs for other artists. He wrote his first number one song “How Am I Supposed to Live without You” for the beautiful, late Laura Branigan who recorded it in 1982. Bolton changed his style to a pop, rock, soul style singing his own songs which brought him American Music Awards, Grammys and over 75 million records sold around the world. MTV and videos played a part in Bolton’s success during that time period. He wrote “I Found Someone” for Branigan but, Cher recorded it and made it one of her own hits.
Currently Michael has a new album out “A Symphony of Hits” of those timeless hit tracks recorded with a 65-piece symphony orchestra. He is traveling with a scaled down version of the symphony and his band to bring it live to audiences. From the opener of “Stand by Me”, the audience is singing along. Bolton’s voice surprisingly sounds the same as the recordings of the past. As rich and soulful as ever on the Otis Redding’s classic, “(Sitting on) the Dock of the Bay”, it is clear why Redding’s widow said her husband would love Bolton’s version. He has a fun, low-key, dry wit when talking with the audience. A fan yelled, “I love you Michael” and he said, “Thank you, I love you too even though I don’t personally know you” which had the audience and the ushers in stitches.
Besides the hits and a smart move with having the symphony backing him, Bolton pulls out standards like “You Don’t Know Me” and “That’s Life”. A couple of duets with one of his background singers brings a nice mix to the setlist with Motown’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and an emotional rendition of David Foster’s “The Prayer” whom Michael says has been a friend for over 30 years. While Bolton leaves the stage, his band takes over with a rousing version of the blues “Sweet Home Chicago” and an incredible sax solo of the Billy Preston penned “You Are So Beautiful” by J.P. DeLaire!
Michael returns in new attire, up in the audience, to the surprise and delight of the fans seated there and sings “When a Man Loves a Woman” which was a number one hit for Bolton in 1991. He shakes hands with them as his moves along back to the stage to finish the show. Another hit, “Time, Love and Tenderness” closes out the show with Michael and band coming back for an encore. It is the 1989 cover from his “Soul Provider” album of the hit “Georgia on My Mind”. There was a time when it wasn’t cool to say you liked Michael Bolton, but that time has long passed. He is truly one of our great singer songwriters!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan / sarasotapost.com