BWW Reviews: Engelbert Humperdinck: A Classic Performer Does A Classic Show

By: Jul. 25, 2011

Lots of people dismiss those singers who have been entertaining since the 1960s (or before) as "oldies" acts, hauling out the old hits, looking old and, in all, nicely nostalgic but sort of sad. And, sometimes, that's true. But. There are also certain entertainers who vividly remind one of the golden days of vintage Las Vegas - before $2,000 bottle service in ultra lounges and celebrity DJs. There was time when entertainment in Las Vegas showrooms was special, with the with an only-in-Las-Vegas ambiance that signaled to audience members that they were in for a special, memorable evening.

Now, I was never in Las Vegas at that time but since I've lived here I've heard so much about it that it's become very real to me. Today, 40 or 50 years after the fact, sometimes - not often enough for those who want the experience of those days - a show comes along that brings them vibrantly alive.

And, in his shows at the Paris Las Vegas' Paris Theatre last weekend, Engelbert Humperdinck did just that with a show that was elegant, smooth and, simply, gorgeous.

Engelbert - I shall refer to him by first name only as, even on a first-name basis, he's unlikely to be confused with anyone else - had been in Las Vegas since July 20, when he was given the key to the city by Mayor Carolyn Goodman and, then, a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Fame commemorating 43 years as an entertainer in the city

The Paris was a perfect venue for the performer. Refurbished last year when Barry Manilow took up residency there, it is one of the best two or three venues in the city. It is beautifully decorated, like being in a red velvet jewel box. The technology, too, is first rate. Sound, lighting and video are all the best they can possibly be.

Engelbert was introduced via video by the always funny Eddie Izzard, who riffs on the name and the process that Engelbert's parents might have gone through in choosing it.

Then, Engelbert entered, walking down a ramp and singing I Believe In Miracles. His voice was terrific and that, along with his moves, belie his 75 years.

Backed by an orchestra made up of eight musicians and two back-up singers under the direction of Eddie Tobin, Engelbert's sound was lush, harking back to the heyday of the big ballad.

He ran through his songbook singing most of his large catalog of hits, including Love Story, A Man Without Love, I Wish You Love, After the Lovin' (do you detect a theme here?) and others that don't have "love" in the title but are about love. He also did Bryan Adams' Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?, Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire, for which he donned a cowboy hat and a new arrangement of Sting's Every Breath You Take. He showed a very funny video clip of a guest spot he did on Dean Martin's TV show. And, in fact, did a credible imitation of Martin.

It was all well-done stuff. He did bring a fan onto the stage to sing a song, an interval that is generally unnecessary. This fan, however, was quite lively and aggressive, so it was amusing. I just believe the bit diminishes the show. Yes, his long-time fans —a large number of whom were at the show — expect it but he is better, smoother and more sophisticated than that. 

After a medley of his biggest hits, Engelbert spoke warmly of the United States. "As an Englishman," he said, "all I have is thanks to you and your wonderful country." He then sang America the Beautiful and Battle Hymn of the Republic in tribute to this country. I've seen many singers from abroad, especially from the UK, and this is the very first acknowledgment I've seen of the country where they found their greatest success and where they live. It was so wonderful that one can only hope others adopt the idea.

Engelbert's show was the best of both vintage Vegas and of what is possible today. It was a classic evening performed by a classic entertainer. We see too little of that these days.

Engelbert Humperdinck Gets Star on Las Vegas Walk of Stars

Engelbert Humperdinck Gets Key to Las Vegas from Mayor Caroline Goodman