Few things are more admirable than a hometown boy who makes good without ever forgetting where he comes from. Take a step forward, Michael Bublé, who headlines Rogers Arena tonight in support of his latest album, Love.
RAT-PACK READY For a few cocktail-addled minutes back in the late ’90s, lounge was one of the hottest tickets in the Vancouver underground music scene. Hands up if you remember downing martinis at the pregentrified Waldorf on East Hastings, or packing Richard’s on Richards for a pre-Simpsons-punch-line Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Right around the time Swingers made a star out of Vince Vaughn, a property that once contained the Granville Street strip club Champagne Charlie’s was gutted and reborn as BaBalu Tapas Lounge. It was there that Michael Bublé started making a name for himself on the local club scene, performing on Sundays and Mondays. Like any totally money cocktail-nation enthusiast, the singer was seemingly obsessed with ’60s-vintage Sinatra and Dean Martin, which might have explained why his 2001 debut album sounded brilliantly like something raided from the Rat Pack vaults. The title of that album was, quite fittingly, BaBalu—making a good case that Bublé, even way back when, was determined to remember his roots.
STREET-FIGHTING MAN As anyone who's suffered through the hell known as high school is aware, there are the prom queens, football stars, and student-council presidents. Then there’s the common rabble, which is to say 97 percent of the population. As famously personable as he is today, Bublé was one of those kids who took a while to come out of his shell—which meant having to learn to stand up for himself at Cariboo Hill Secondary School in Burnaby. “I was a little chubby,” he’s quoted as saying in Juliet Peel’s Michael Bublé: The Biography. “I was the sweet kid. I was nice. Kids are all afraid and when they see someone who is weak… By the time I got out of high school I was a fighter.”
MAN OF MANY TALENTS Everyone knows Bublé as a talented musical stylist, but slightly less-known are his comedic chops. In 2011, he told an audience in Melbourne that long before he aspired to become a singer, he dreamed of starring in comedies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which he called “the best movie ever”. Remember that hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch where he played his hapless self, buttonholed into a terrible business proposition by a clearly off-his-meds Jon Hamm? A few years later, BBC Music tapped the singer’s funny side for a Candid Camera–style video in which, disguised as a man-bun-sporting South African sales assistant named Dion, an unrecognizable Bublé interacts with customers at a department store before blowing his cover by singing his own songs through a karaoke machine. Bublé is also a fantastic mimic; for proof, fire up YouTube and watch the Dan Rather interview in which the crooner busts out pitch-perfect impressions of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. How good is he? Well, he got this response from legendary newsman Rather: “I’m sitting here in awe of you, man. You could make a living just doing that.”
SAINT MICHAEL Okay, this isn’t exactly trivia, but it’s so laudable, there’s no way we can resist bringing it up here. One of the big reasons folks go into the entertainment business is money—once you get a taste of it, it becomes something you can never get enough of. In August 2010, Bublé showed the world that sometimes there are more important things than fattening up one’s bank account. The singer found himself playing two sold-out shows in Vancouver at Roger’s Arena. At the end of Night 1, he paused to make an announcement that all profits from the gig would be going to B.C. Children’s Hospital. Not a portion, but every cent. If you want to pinpoint the night Bublé became St. Michael in these parts, start there.
ICE WARRIOR While he’s done okay at the music thing, Michael Bublé’s other life dream was to play in the NHL. Such is his love for the game that when the Vancouver Canucks found themselves playing in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final, Bublé cancelled a gig so that he could fly home and be in the stands. In 2010 he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he decided to go into show business because his first love didn’t work out. “I’m a failed Canadian hockey player,” he said. “I was never good enough to play hockey, so I ended up as a singer.” Don’t think for a second, though, that Bublé looks like Bambi when he steps on the ice. In 2011 he skated with the Vancouver Canucks at practice and (except for the part where he wiped out after taking a shoot-out shot at Roberto Luongo) he looked like, well, a Canadian hockey player, right down to his refusal to wear a visor.