Still smooth as silk at age 83, and showing the kind of stage energy that suggests a performer half his age, Milt Trenier made time stand still Sunday at Devonshire Park.
Some would describe a vintage Milt performance as not freezing the clock but turning it back – back to a time of cool clubs and Las Vegas lounge acts. But that would erroneously suggest Milt’s music belongs only to yesterday.
Milt Trenier has proved time and again he never goes out of style.
“Come on in, we get better later,” he jokingly told a few stragglers wandering near the edge of the park.
Then he seamlessly launched into his first classic among a night of them, all the while interweaving vignettes about his show-business past.
“This song we’re going to do for you is going to take us back,” he said. “Everything I do is about yesteryear, because I’ve been doing it for so long.”
Milt and his three-piece band Sunday delivered a series of familiar – well, let’s call them “ditties” as they used to say back in the day: “Mack the Knife,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “What a Wonderful World,” which inspired couples to pair for a lovely slow dance, and “When You’re Smiling” among others.
That last song could be an anthem for Milt, because he seems to always be smiling, his gregarious joy for performing palpable at every performance.
He regularly leaves the stage to shake it up with his audience, dancing and singing with both adults and children. It’s as if he can’t wait to get down with his fans.
Milt Sunday performed at this season’s penultimate Skokie Park District Sunday Sundown Concert series. Although threatening skies and earlier rain may have kept down crowds, there were hundreds there by the time the tuxedoed Trenier was in full swing alongside his capable and veteran band.
Milt was the youngest of the Trenier brothers in the music group they formed called The Treniers, which broke new ground with an R&B sound of sorts that they performed in the early days of television and movies. Milt left the group to perform on his own during a successful and long career that’s still going strong. He even had his own lounge in Chicago for many years.
But as he listed off many of the places he has performed over six-plus decades – from London to Carnegie Hall to Las Vegas to many other prized musical venues – he suggested his real dream-come-true has been living in Skokie.
It rained before and just at the end of Milt’s and his band’s 90-minute concert Sunday, offering just the needed window for another of his classic shows. If it had to rain, the timing was ideal; it was as if a higher power knew better than to mess with the legend’s long-time act.
More than 65 years in the business and still joyfully belting them out, Milt Trenier has earned that kind of respect.