Following the release of Some Nice Things I've Missed, Frank Sinatra embarked on a six-concert tour in 1974, working with Woody Herman & the Young Thundering Herd, which was conducted by Bill Miller, Sinatra's longtime pianist. Dubbed "The Main Event," the tour culminated with a televised concert from Madison Square Garden on October 13, 1974. Subtitled "Live From Madison Square Garden," this album isn't an exact document of the concert. Instead, it's a compilation taken from various shows on "The Main Event" tour; on two songs, "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Let Me Try Again," two performances are spliced together. Even if it constructs a concert -- which the good majority of live albums from the '70s tended to do -- The Main Event is a delight, full of inspired performances. While there are a couple of contemporary numbers thrown in, the majority of the songs are standards, from "The Lady Is a Tramp" to "I've Got You Under My Skin." Both Sinatra and Herman's Herd are lively, spurring each other on to consistently strong performances. Sinatra's singing might be a little too loose for some tastes, as he injects lyrical asides, impressions, and jokes throughout the record, as well as occasionally changing the lyrics by making them a little more "hip." Nevertheless, his singing cannot be faulted. Not only does he sound fine on his trademark numbers, particularly a lovely piano duet on "Angel Eyes," but he brings the contemporary material to life, which he failed to do in the studio. Even with all of its pleasures, The Main Event remains a minor entry in Sinatra's canon -- dedicated fans will certainly find more to cherish here than the casual listener -- but it remains one of his most enjoyable records of the '70s.
The Main Event: Live Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine