Bolton’s hits: time, love and Lady Gaga
If you go
Who: Michael Bolton
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Tickets: $10 to $65; call 216-241-6000, or go to PlayhouseSquare.org
By John Benson
It may seem as though pop singer Michael Bolton took the ’00s off, but the Grammy- winning singer-songwriter did release a few albums over the past decade. Now the platinum-artist is back with a major tour celebrating his greatest hits, which include “[Sittin’ On] the Dock of the Bay,” “Time, Love and Tenderness,” “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” “How Can We Be Lovers” “To Love Some Somebody” and more. Listed by People magazine as one of the “Sexiest Men in his 50s,” Bolton comes to Cleveland for a Monday show at the Palace Theatre.
Recently Bolton had a media conference call about his new tour, his experience with Lady Gaga and the secret to his longevity and success.
Q. Aside from touring, you appear in an upcoming PBS special airing this month. How did the show come about?
A. Well, I can tell you that David Foster, who’s been a great friend of mine and one of the people I admire most in the music industry, is of course a legendary writer and producer. He told me that he’s doing this event, Foster and Friends for PBS, and if I could get myself to Las Vegas where they were doing it that he had this idea that I would do a duet with Seal where I walk out on stage singing “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and then Seal comes out and sings “This is a Man’s World.” Foster figured out a musical way to merge the two. We had a spectacular time.
Q. As for your upcoming tour, what’s the musical focus and what can fans expect?
A. The energy that happens onstage — which goes really from R&B and pop to rock ’n’ roll and blues, big band and classical — is a wide range of music. I think it’s a bit of (an) education for a new fan or someone to just come and check out our show, but a pleasant education. It’s primarily the greatest hits with a few surprises. At the end of the day, if you’ve had a career that’s spanned three decades, you’re going to have a lot of people in that audience who are waiting to hear their favorite song from one of the early albums. One song starts, and it just takes them back in time to whatever they were going through. And music no longer just becomes this type of entertainment. It becomes music that got people through some of the hardest moments of their lives and music that celebrates some of the high points of their lives.
Q. Regarding your audience, who is coming to a Michael Bolton concert these days?
A. I’m looking into the audience and I’m seeing definitely a lot of core fans who know all the music, but I’m also seeing these 25-year-olds who were teenagers when a lot of this music was being played. And I hope what I’ve heard is accurate, that the music became part of their lives. It became the soundtrack of their lives.
Q. Looking back to your 2009 album “One World One Love,” you wrote the song “Murder My Heart” with a then- up-and-coming Lady Gaga. How did the collaboration come about?
A. Wow, Lady Gaga, a songwriter before her solo career took off. I think she was 23 when we wrote together. Her CD was about to come out in about three months. The label was very excited about it. We were both on the same company, Universal. And I got a phone call from one of the record executives who said we have this great artist who is also a great songwriter who is a big fan of yours and would like to write with you for this new CD. And I said, “Really? Okay. Who is it?” And they said her name is Lady Gaga. And, you know, I hadn’t heard of her yet because her record didn’t come out yet, and there wasn’t a buzz that was soon to explode into, you know, the enormity of Gaga, Gaga mania. I am very, very happy for her.
Q. Finally, when you look back at your career, your cover of Otis Redding’s “[Sittin’ On] the Dock of the Bay” stands out as a defining moment. What comes to mind when you think of that recording?
A. What I learned was just to follow my instinct and record what I enjoy, what I enjoy singing. I learned from recording “Dock of the Bay” early on in my career there were people who loved it when they heard it. And then there were people who said, “Wait a second, that’s an Otis Redding standard.” There were people at the label (who) said, “It’s not time for this song.” And they tried to pull it off the record. I’m glad I fought for it because it was my second Grammy for vocal that helped really solidify my career. It also confirmed to just do what you feel as an artist. And maybe one song’s not going to be as big of a hit as the other, but it’s going to be relevant in your body of work that you release and that you perform live. So the instinct has to come first.