The first step in gaining an audience's attention is earning its respect.
For Anne Murray, with more than 21 years of hit songs and millions of albums sold, that part was taken care of before she took the stage for last night's show at Pier Six Pavilion.
The hard part for her was keeping the packed house of 4,000 interested for two hours -- through the old songs as well as the new, unfamiliar numbers -- and that's where Murray really showed her performance savvy.
Instead of slogging through the set with the same tired routine, like many acts in the middle-of-the-road set, Murray tipped the cap to the old songs but showed vibrant interest in new songs like "I Can See Arkansas" as well.
And when she wasn't belting out the choruses in songs like "Shadows in The Moonlight" and "I Just Fall in Love Again," she was spicing up the show with some quick-witted humor, something no record of hers could convey.
It seemed she had an anecdote for every occasion.
When a woman in the front of the audience gave an extra hoot of applause and a bouquet of flowers, Murray said, "I think I'm singing pretty well tonight, too!"
When she spotted a fellow in the third row with a thick pair of binoculars, she said, "You can't be more than three feet away. What the hell are you looking at?"
Before performing "Snowbird" to end the first half of the show, she read a beautifully naive letter from a 10-year-old boy who wanted her to marry his single father "because I've seen you on TV and you would make a really great momma."
She even had a funny story about her dancing ability ("a natural," she joked) and proceeded to perform "Everything Old Is New Again," complete with top hat, cane and a soft-shoe that would have made Liza Minnelli proud.
Aside from being somewhat of a ham -- she felt almost too comfortable in front of this adoring crowd -- Murray delivered everything it expected.
She left nothing out of her catalog of songs, performing 22 full numbers and an eight-song medley, featuring "Love Song," "Time Won't Heal a Broken Heart," "He Still Thinks I Still Care," "Another Woman in Love" and "Daydream Believer."
Although one might think she gave these very popular songs short shrift, that clearly wasn't the case.
"Somebody had to sing all of these great songs," she explained. "It just happened to be me, and we don't have the time to do all of them."
Certainly no one felt cheated by the time the show wound down with "You Needed Me," "You Won't See Me" and a choirlike, sing-along encore of "Could I Have This Dance?"