Michael Bublé is calling. He is early, by about two minutes.
“I’m that way for everything,” Bublé says. “I love being prompt. I’m so Canadian. I am that way for everybody. Doctors, dentists, journalists. I’d rather be early than late, for sure.”
That said, Bublé has taken his time to finally perform an exclusive engagement in Las Vegas. The 46-year-old superstar ends that decades-long wait when headlines at the Theatre at Resorts World for six shows, Wednesday through May 7.
Bublé has just issued “Higher,” his latest studio album. He duets with Willie Nelson on “Bring It On Home To Me.” Paul McCartney produced a song on the album, “My Valentine.” Both are expected in the Theatre set list.
What took Bublé so long to produce a residency in Las Vegas? Blame Las Vegas, he says. Or maybe, blame Jay Leno. Actually, blame Jay Leno in Las Vegas. About 20 years, ago, Bublé opened for Leno at MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre, today’s David Copperfield Theater.
“I remember asking Jay, ‘Can you give me advice about touring?’ and this was before I was even signed. I mean, I was young,” Bublé says. “And he said to me, ‘Kid, if you ever have the opportunity to go to people’s backyards, do the work make the sacrifice and travel, do it.’
“I remember it so well. It was before we went on, and Jay had a hot dog in his hand when he gave me that talk, ‘Make the world yours, become tangible, and Vegas will work itself out.’ ”
Bublé has followed through, with a Vegas run dangling as a far-off option.
“I’d go to 50 countries over and over again, the U.K. and the Philippines, South Africa, Australia. I would swallow my pride to play for seven journalists in Germany and a couple of TV shows. I built a career where I could travel and be an international act,” Bublé says. “That’s the reason it has taken so long to do this, and even the reason the Vegas residency is so short. I just don’t see myself at this point in my life, losing the ability to see people from those countries.”
Las Vegas’ international appeal is usually near the top of headliners’ reasons for playing the city. But Bublé still prefers the road.
“Even my manager will say, ‘Well, those people from those countries can fly to see you in Vegas,’” Bublé says. “But that’s not enough for me. I just feel fundamentally, it’s wrong.”
Las Vegas has served as one of those international destinations, as Bublé has been a top touring draw at such venues as MGM Grand Garden and T-Mobile Arena over the years. For the 5,000-seat Theatre, he has built a classically Las Vegas-style production, with a full orchestra and backing singers.
“This residency is almost more a musical showcase for my new album than it is anything else,” Bublé says. “When I started the first production meeting, they asked what I wanted in the production. I said, ‘I don’t want fireworks. I don’t want pyro. I don’t need it.’ ”
Sadly, or not, Bublé is not going to be drenched by a waterfall at the end of the show.
“I asked what they thought of me doing a wet T-shirt thing,” Buble says, laughing. “But I kept saying hey, I want more musicians. I want a bigger band. I more strings I want I just really want this thing to be it the second the curtain opens. We’ll take the money and put it into having the greatest band in Vegas.’ And that’s where the production is.”
Bublé has always carried himself with a kind of Rat Pack-ian flair, a Sinatra-styled panache, and is eager to instill a Sands’ Copa Room scene at The Theatre. That includes maitre ‘ds seating people on the vast Theatre stage.
“I don’t want lights, I want people,” Bublé says. “After this pandemic, about the most beautiful thing you can have is actually that connection with human beings up on stage. We’re very old school in the way we want to bring people into the show.”
That classic showman quality is why Bublé has been held up as an ideal Vegas headliner. But he has not consciously sought performance tips by studying bygone legends, in Vegas or anywhere else.
“I only learned on the job. I didn’t have YouTube to go and look at, I don’t think I ever thought to go and look at old footage,” Bublé says. “I was so passionate about the music, about the songs and about the craft. I wasn’t sentimental about a different time, or style, or dress. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who wanted to live in the ’40s. I just loved the songs.”
Bublé returns to a conversation he had with McCartney, about performing music over the course of a lifetime. The two brought up Malcolm Gladwell’s vastly embraced theory in “Outliers,” in which the author refers to the “10,000-Hour Rule”: To achieve expertise in a skill, one should work 10,000 hours at that skill.
“I actually spoke to Paul McCartney about this when he was producing the record, and he agreed because he has lived it,” Buble says. “It’s a really wonderful theory. I think that is part of what you might see when you come to see me on stage. It’s 10,000 hours of work. I learned who I was onstage, I grew up in front of the audience, and became very comfortable in my skin. And more than that, I truly love it.”
Cool Hang Alert
Michael Johnson is a guy who can sing anything. A favorite Vegas artist for years, Johnson ventured to Oregon Institute of Technology in October 2020, but returned a little more than a year ago. Johnson’s Denim Brigade premieres at Myron’s at the Smith Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Expect expert variations of 1970s hit-makers James Taylor, Paul Simon, America, and Kenny Loggins, among others. Marcus Vann is on bass, Dave Richardson on keys, Jacob Chidester on guitar, Joel Ferguson on pedal-steel guitar, Cameron Tyler on drums, Paco Santos on percussion and Kate Steele on backing vocals. The terrific vocalist Christine Shebeck is set to appear, too. All of it produced by Megan Belk’s Music by Belk along with Red House Entertainment. Should be a fun one. Tickets are $29-$45 (not including fees) go to smithcenter.com for details.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.