A FLURRY OF WOMEN clutching cellophane-wrapped roses hurries into Toronto’s Sony Centre, shielding their dresses from the rain on a dreary St. Valentine’s evening. Inside, an expectant buzz permeates the crowd as horns, strings, percussion and pianist take the stage. Then, without warning, the room goes black. A spotlight slices through the darkness and hits the back of the auditorium. The band bursts into the first melody and, through the crowd, those familiar lyrics ring: “I’m so young and you’re so old. This, my darling, I’ve been told …”
The throng of screaming female fans nearly overwhelms Paul Anka, 71, when he appears through a gauntlet of outstretched arms in a slim black suit and tie, all the while not missing a note. My initial thought as I observed the mob scene: is this actually happening?
The last Anka single to top the U.S. Billboard charts, “(You’re) Having My Baby,” came in 1974, and his last top 10 tune, “Times of Your Life,” in 1975. Even his adult contemporary chart hit, “Hold Me ’Til the Mornin’ Comes,” peaked in 1983. Yet it’s wholly clear during his show that he’s not some washed-up former idol clinging to fame by offering an early bird special for dinner and a show. Anka sings, swings, dances and improvises, owning the Toronto crowd for more than two hours – with no intermission. Women rush to offer roses or abandon their dates to embrace him in the aisles. Anka 1, Cupid 0.
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