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Review - Burlinson swings Sinatra

Tom 2.jpg

Photos: Tom signs copies of his CD for happy fans and he stops to give

Tom 1.jpg

absolutetheatre a nice pose.

Sinatra at the Sands

Performed by Tom Burlinson

Queensland cabaret Festival

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


What a joy it was to see and hear the dinner-suited Tom Burlinson belting out the Sinatra hits in front of an equally sartorial 15-piece big band. That man is class with a capital “C”.

It was a one night stand in Brisbane, part of the Cabaret Festival, and his fans turned out in droves to fill the Concert Hall for his performance. We saw nearly two hours of unmitigated nostalgia, wonderful singing of wonderful songs and, for a big band enthusiast like myself, amazing to hear the musical arrangements of Quincy Jones for the Count Basie Orchestra back in the 1960s, Billy May and Nelson Riddle played so faithfully that is was simple to hear the change in style.

It’s not well known, but back in the 1970s Tom did a one-off Sinatra show and declared that he wasn’t going to get type-cast as a Sinatra tribute singer. He of course moved on to be a popular movie star in the classic Australian movies The Man from Snowy River and Phar Lap, as well as his heaps of TV appearances over the years.

But in 1991 his life was to change. Tina Sinatra picked Tom to sing the voice of her father in the Golden Globe Award-winning miniseries Sinatra. This led to a whole new musical development in his career.

He created his own show Frank- A Life in Song, which became hugely successful all around Australia, and Canada before entrepreneur Steve Wynn invited Tom to perform at his Wynn Las Vegas resort in 2007.

So singing took over and after that came Now We’re Swingin’, when Tom paid tribute not only to Sinatra, but also Nat ‘King’ Cole, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jnr, and Bobby Darin as well as Harry Connick Jnr and Michael Buble. He also toured around the country with a smaller musical ensemble performing Simply Sinatra.

And finally he created this great show.

The first half is based on the 1966 album which was recorded live at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and is often referred to as his best. For me though, the best is Songs for Swinging Lovers, his Nelson Riddle orchestrated comeback album in the 1950s. Burlinson sang a couple from that too.

I just loved every minute of the show as he belted his way through hits like Come Fly with Me, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, One for my Baby, You Make Me Feel So Young, Fly Me to the Moon, It was a Very Good Year, My Kind of Town and even a quaint sounding version of Get Me to the Church on Time from My Fair Lady.

After the interval he moved onto Sinatra’s classic hits including his opening number New York, New York plus The Lady is a Tramp, Strangers in the Night among others and ending the concert of course with My Way. His encore was That’s Life. I ask you what more could you ask for?

Why is Burlinson so popular? It’s because he is not just a tribute singers. He is s singer with a stunning voice in his own right. There are not a great many successful Sinatra copy cats because few singers have the highly underestimated range of Sinatra’s voice, especially when he saved his career by becoming a swinging singer rather than a dreamy crooner. Even Frank Sinatra Junior was not a wild success when he stepped into his father’s shoes. I saw him. He sounded like Frank senior, but the pizzazz was missing.

Now that is what Tom Burlinson has on stage in spades. He sparkles and adds his own vibrant personality to perfect Sinatra phrasing and style. He works with the orchestra the way Sinatra did, so audiences get the best of both worlds.

He chats as Burlinson, tells a few anecdotes from his tour, occasionally uses a genuine Sinatra intro to a song or two. But the main point is that he is a true entertainer.

One night was not enough for his fans I’m sure – and judging by the long line-up to get his CD autographed after the show, he will be welcome back any time/

All we need now is someone to channel Ella Fitzgerald - can you imagine what sort of concert that would be!

For more Queensland Cabaret Festival info and to make bookings: