Charles Aznavour In Santiago: Still Got It At 85

The silver fox’s shaky hands might have shown his age, but his passionate dramatics and unwavering voice was enough to make the ladies blush and grown men cry.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pasten

Legendary French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour returned to Santiago this year after the success of last year’s “despedida tour” for a final goodbye to his adoring Chilean fans.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pasten

On Thursday 10 September he played to over ten thousand fans in Santiago’s Movistar Arena, but managed to give the performance an intimate feel with his astounding stage presence.

Whereas most octogenarians have lost the spring in their step, a few of their marbles, and the ability to chew hard foods, Monsieur Aznavour still behaves like a spring chicken.

Not only did the singer alternate every French track with a Spanish one, he also delivered “She” in beautifully accented English. His rendition of “Ave Maria,” which he sung as a duet with Luciano Pavarotti, was belted out with finely-tuned tenor tones even the big man would have approved of, as the crowd gave him one of many standing ovations.

While Spanish staples such as “Quien” caused mumbled murmurs around the huge arena, the silence and blank faces during the French numbers meant that Charles might as well have been singing in Mandarin. However, the petite figure dressed all in black with a shock of white hair accompanied his theatric appearance with amateur dramatics to each song. Thousand-mile stares into the darkness, gestures to the sky, and stern or delighted facial expressions converted the singer into master storyteller for an eager and enraptured audience.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pasten

As if his polyglot antics and acting weren’t enough, the singer’s romanticism continued as he placed his hand over his shoulder, laid his cheek down and waltzed around the starlit stage like a pair of young lovers. It is hard to imagine anyone else getting away with the unabashed earnestness and solemnity with which Aznavour commands his show; contemporary boy bands seem like cardboard cutouts to the king of sentiment.

The crowd wept at the singer’s stirring homage to long gone youth in “La Jeunesse." Minutes later, the blubbering turned to blushing as Charles demanded some French filly in his past to “Apaga La Luz” (turn out the lights). This rendition, complete with a twinkle in his eye and determined look on face, was surprisingly sexual for someone old enough to be Tom Jones’ dad.

With over 100 million record sales and a CNN/TIME award in 1998 for entertainer of the century, an Aznavour concert is like your favorite Disney film on a hangover or when real life gets tough.

You can happily sit back, safe in the knowledge that an entertainment expert will whisk you off to a world of nostalgia and sentimentality on a familiar yet exciting emotional rollercoaster. Even the most dispassionate will find themselves tapping their feet along and allowing themselves a subtle cathartic cry at the moving bits.

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