By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Michael Bublé has a knack for making cavernous venues feel intimate.
That’s exactly what he plans when he brings his Higher Tour 2022 to Footprint Center on Tuesday, September 20. And that intimacy is especially poignant now as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I, along with everyone else in the world, wondered if this world was ever going to get to where we are right now and for us to all get back together,” Bublé says during a Zoom interview.
“I share that with my musicians, my crew, my local crew, your buildings. I think everybody feels this, and I think there’s just this great, this wonderful energy.”
To say the “Higher” shows are well thought out is an understatement.
“I spent two and a half years daydreaming every day, sitting up every night, thinking about how I could make this the greatest show in the world,” Bublé says.
“I wanted to change it and make it new for me, and give people who have seen me before something completely fresh.”
Wearing a burgundy suit and sitting on a black sofa at a rehearsal space, Bublé says he did it. He had a taste of it while on his recent England tour.
“I’m about to go in and start to make sure that all the pieces are fitting perfectly,” he adds about rehearsals.
“I knew it worked, though. I just came from England, where I had these massive outdoor shows. I didn’t have all the production I will have here, but I had the bones of the set.
“I just watched the people lose it — like literally losing it. It’s high energy.”
The show, he says, is essentially three acts. The venues will be transformed into a sophisticated, dramatic massive club.
“It’s explosive,” he says. “There’s this great sense of ‘drama.’ That’s the best way to say it.”
The middle part of the concert ramps up until it explodes in production surprises, which he’s quick to reveal.
“It’s like going to see the Stones or Coldplay,” he says. “You’re going to see a rock show, and it’s in the third act that you have this massive, goosebump-inducing finale. That’s my whole goal. I kept saying to my lighting designers, to my production team, I want people to feel like they’ve come into three different buildings in the same night.
“I want the environment to change. I don’t need pyro. I don’t need massive confetti cannons. I don’t need all the lights,” he says before scooting closer to the camera.
“But I have them anyway.”
These three acts will give Bublé fans exactly what they want, he says. As much as he loves the songs on “Higher,” his 11th full-length album, he knows that fans long to hear hits like “Home,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “Haven’t Met You Yet” and “Feeling Good.”
“They need to have those core songs that they want to hear,” Bublé says.
“I’m really proud of this set list. When you walk away, no one’s going to say, ‘Ah, I wish he would have done… I wish he would have done…’ I don’t ever want to be so self-indulgent where I go, ‘And this is a new one. And this is a new one. And this is a new one.’ It’s a really clever mix, I think, of giving them some of the new stuff, but making sure that they get to hear their favorite hits.”
And others’ favorite hits. With the BBC Concert Orchestra, he covered Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” on a recommendation from a longtime friend, and it’s become such a radio hit abroad, he’s considering adding it to his set list.
“That’s a huge, huge hit in England right now for me,” he says. “That’s the No. 1 most-added record on radio — and it’s not mine. Olivia Rodrigo: I want some money from you.”
Bublé recorded the song with the help of musical director Nicholas Jacobson-Larson, a prodigy of John Williams.
“You can hear that in many of his arrangements,” he says. “This is very cinematic. You can hear that in many of his arrangements. He arranged ‘Higher.’ He arranged ‘Smile.’ He arranged ‘Crazy,’ the Willie Nelson duet. He’s had his fingerprints all over it.”
He and Larson were in a hotel room in England when Bublé sang how he would perform “Drivers License.”
“It had this ‘Eleanor Rigby’ feel with this really percussive string stuff,” he adds. “He always just kills it. We showed up. I sang it. I did it. I didn’t think another thing about it. Then my manager started to call me and say, ‘You need to put this out.’ And I said, ‘I’m not putting this out.’ I had two singles I was working.”
“Then I had taken my kids to see ‘Matilda’ on the West End in London,” he adds. “My manager sent me a note and said, ‘Listen, you just need to listen to it.’ So, I begrudgingly put in my earphones, and I sat in the theater about to watch the show. And I went, ‘Oh, this is good. Maybe I should release this.’ I just didn’t expect it to be a hit.”
While “Drivers License” is a strong “maybe” for the shows, fan TikTok videos are a must for them. He’s encouraging fans to submit their clips for inclusion at the concerts.
“I really love that platform,” he says.
“It’s really a community, and I love that I get to be part of a community. I get to see kids sitting in their mom’s basement, playing the piano and showing off these amazing talents, or people being creative and making funny videos.
“There are people who have touching stories, and you actually get to connect with them and talk with them and write to them. It’s the first time in my career or my life that I ever felt there was really a way to have that real connection.”
Users of other social media outlets show off their morning breakfast or their workout routine. But TikTok is about relationships, he says.
“I can tell people in Albuquerque or South Africa, ‘You have a beautiful voice. You’re amazing,’” he says.
“‘You just brightened my day.’ ‘Thank you for sharing your mother’s cancer battle.’ It’s remarkable.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 20
WHERE: Footprint Center, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $65
INFO: 602-379-2000, footprintcenter.com