Written by General Jabbo
At 70 years old, most singers are long retired — or should be — which makes Frank Sinatra’s inspired performance on Live at the Meadowlands all the more impressive. Recorded in East Rutherford, NJ at the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands Sports Complex on March 14, 1986, the album is a triumphant homecoming gig for ‘Ol Blue Eyes.
Backed by a crack band including long-time pianist (and at this show, orchestra conductor) Bill Miller, guitarist Tony Mottola, bassist Don Baldini, and drummer Irv Cottler, Sinatra thrills the crowd with nearly 50 years of his recorded history.
Appropriately enough, the show begins with “Without a Song,” which Sinatra describes as one of the songs that got him started in his days with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The crowd is enthusiastic; Sinatra seems energized by them and happy they came out on what was a rainy night. Next, Sinatra delivers a spirited performance on “Where or When,” a song he describes as “belonging to you and me and every audience and myself.”
Sinatra reflects on his age in “It Was a Very Good Year,” saying “Holy jeez, seventeen,” and “Change Partners” features an up-tempo arrangement unlike the studio version. On “The Gal That Got Away,” Sinatra comments about how it was “brought to life by the great Judy Garland originally,” crediting the performers and arrangers who worked on these songs as he often did.
Frank playfully teases a female member of the audience, saying “yeah, I know what you want to hear, baby” before charging into the late-period classic, the “Theme From New York, New York.” After a beautiful “Moonlight in Vermont,” Sinatra offers a smooth version of the then recent “L.A. is My Lady” from the album of the same name.
In an album filled with great moments, perhaps the greatest is on ”the daddy of saloon songs,” “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road),” backed by the great Bill Miller on piano. Another L.A. is My Lady track, “Mack the Knife,” closes the show in the same exciting fashion as it opened.
As the original concert ran over 90 minutes — longer than what will fit on a single CD — three songs were cut from the performance. Those songs are: “The Best is Yet to Come,” “April in Paris,” and “It’s All Right With Me.” While it would be nice to have the full show, the performance, packaging, and sound quality on this Concord Records release are top-notch and make Live at the Meadowlands a must-own CD for any Sinatra fan.