by Jeff Niesel
When singer Wayne Newton played his last set shows on the Las Vegas strip in 2010, he called them his “Once Before I Go” shows. He took the opportunity to show old video clips and reminisce about his past. His voice was pretty much blown out and sounded hoarse, but the show was still good fun and featured long segments during which Newton would talk to the audience. One of the last of the old school lounge/soft rock singers who sings about romantic love like it’s something precious, Engelbert Humperdinck took a similar approach last night at Hard Rock Live. As a result, the format allowed Humperdinck to simultaneously ham it up and show that he still takes his soft rock seriously enough that the older members of the crowd wouldn’t think he was just phoning it in and goofing around.
The show began with a video clip that featured old footage of Humperdinck performing during the '70s and '80s. The guy even included a clip from his recording of "Lesbian Seagull" for the soundtrack of the 1996 film Beavis and Butt-head Do America. And he showed a bit by Brit comedian Eddie Izzard who joked about what how many different name combinations Humperdinck and his manager must have thought up before they arrived at Engelbert Humperdinck.
Just a couple of songs into his set, Humperdinck, who arrived on stage dressed in a suit and tie (he would quickly loosen the tie and seductively unbutton his shirt) joked, “I’ve been in this business for six years now” before playing “My World,” one of his cheesier love songs. He turned “A Man Without Love” into a robust sing-a-long that found him shaking his hips as his large band played up the jazzy side of “Help Me Make it Through the Night” with a spirited horn arrangement.
Humperdinck regularly hammed it up — something he’s done throughout his career, as he demonstrated in an old clip featuring him and Dean Martin joking around as they sang a song about who was the more popular singer. He also played a twangy rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” for which he put on a cowboy hat and pranced across the stage. And he told a series of jokes, even admitting he liked to have a drink or two during his performances. And he did a decent imitation of pop singer Tom Jones too.
He devoted most of the second half of the show to playing material from Engelbert Calling, a new studio album of duets that came out last month in the UK and debuted in the UK Top-40 Album Charts at No. 31. The album features duets with Charles Aznavour, Elton John, Il Divo, Johnny Mathis, Lulu, Willie Nelson, Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Neil Sedaka, Ron Sexsmith, Gene Simmons and Dionne Warwick. For his rendition of “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” his song with Elton John, Humperdinck performed along to a tape of John’s vocal track and pulled it off without a hitch. He also did a spot-on imitation of Willie Nelson before performing “Make You Feel My Love,” the tune that features him and Nelson. He stumbled a bit as he teamed up with one of his backing singers on “Never Never Never,” the song that features him and Newton-John.
But the concert quickly got back on track. He delivered “The Last Waltz” with so much gusto that the crowd was singing in unison and for the 90-minute concert’s finale, he played a medley of hits that had the crowd up and off its feet. It’s a testament to his sex appeal that middle-aged women still threw their panties on the stage at the 77-year-old singer.