Gig review: Michael Bublé at Leeds First Direct Arena

The crowd goes wild for Michael Buble at Leeds First Direct Arena. Picture: ANTHONY LONGSTAFF
The crowd goes wild for Michael Buble at Leeds First Direct Arena. Picture: ANTHONY LONGSTAFF

Say what you like about Michael Bublé but the grandstanding Canadian crooner doesn’t skimp on the key changes.

There’s been roughly half a dozen across the first three or four songs of the night upon his return to Leeds’s First Direct Arena and he doesn’t let up the musical gymnastics throughout the following two hours.

It borders on the gratuitous, slathered in strings and brass, but nobody seems to care too much, revelling in the excuse to spend an evening in the presence of a modern day swing-king many thought might not make it back to the stage.

Having last hit up West Yorkshire in 2014, Bublé entered an indefinite touring hiatus in 2016 following the diagnosis of his son Noah with liver cancer.

Though the five-year-old is now free of the disease, the singer has obviously taken stock of the world. Though he makes only occasional reference to it throughout – his between-song patter lacks the louche edge of the raconteurs he hopes to emulate but still has enough off-the-cuff musings to pass muster – he’s very clearly touched by the concern and support he and his family received.

He points to his kids early on, side of stage; later, a young boy offers him a Spider-Man toy as a gift for his children which leaves him looking genuinely staggered.

The songcraft, honed by an orchestra set amid a half-shell Hollywood Bowl-esque set of steps leading up to the heavens, hits very few bum notes too.

From the teased-out drama of Feeling Good through the happy-go-lucky easy listening of Haven’t Met You Yet, where Bublé runs out to the crowd to exchange high-fives, it glides with a semi-sophisticated ease.

My Funny Valentine goes full Bond theme song, as does main set closer Cry Me a River; in-between, he pulls up a terrified audience member for an ad-hoc duet of Something Stupid, channels his MOR tear-prickling sensibilities in Love You Anymore, Forever Now and Home, and ventures into the tiered seating for a mini-set capped off by a raucous You Never Can Tell.

By the time he closes out with a one-two of Everything and Always On My Mind, there’s more swing in Leeds than he has left in his hips – but there’s not many faces without a sighing smile plastered over them too.