The trick for a successful touring performer is to present even the most tired chestnut from the repertoire as if it were springtime fresh and, just as importantly, as if it weren't a chore.
That's easier said than done, and the ability to pull it off night after night, city after city, year after year, is what separates the people who make a four-hour marathon breeze by like a 30-minute sitcom from those who make you wish you could get money back from a free concert.
And that's why, no matter how many times you've seen Al Jarreau in concert, you have to see him again and again, for he is never the same twice.
The close of last night's nearly two-hour tour de force at the Pier Six Music Pavilion proved that point.
It's been 10 years since Jarreau first burst onto the pop scene with his brilliant Grammy-winning "Breakin' Away" album, which yielded his inaugural across-the-board hit, "We're In This Love Together."
Consequently, Jarreau has been doomed to sing it at every concert since. Granted, it's a terrific song, in fact better than most stuff that gets radio air-play these days.
But coming up with a way to deliver it at every concert that doesn't sound stale or labored must be a challenge akin to scaling Everest in sneakers.
However, Jarreau is one of our best song craftsmen, and his rendition of "We're In This Love Together" sounded as fresh as the first time he did it out of the studio.
In fact, Jarreau -- simply attired in a Mandela T-shirt and black slacks -- was brilliant from start to finish, breaking out of the lovely "One Way" with an improvised imitation of the conga drums and bass, and punctuating the wistful "Alonzo" with a whistle between his teeth that echoed his flutist, Michael Paolo.
Before the crowd could make the standard request for "Take Five," from his pre-pop days, Jarreau was off and gone on it, tossing in a couple of bars of "Tenderly" and "Blue Moon," and then he threw in a brief a cappella reading of "We Got By."
Even the lesser known songs got the full Jarreau workout. The evening's highlight was a fierce tandem of the sizzling slow pieces "So Good," and the definitive "Teach Me Tonight," which netted Jarreau one of many deserved standing ovations.