Friday, May 12, 2006

James the Wayniac

Tonight I went to see the legendary Wayne Newton at the House of Blues in Anaheim (along with Amy's mom and sister Ashley). It wasn't my first time seeing Mr. Las Vegas live and in person, but it was nonetheless an incredible experience.

My ticket for the great Wayne Newton. (05/12/06)

A lot of people often wonder why I like all these old-time stage fixtures, what with Wayne Newton, Liza Minnelli, Dolly Parton, Tom Jones, Charo, Don Ho, etc., etc. I'll tell you why I enjoy them. It's because seeing one of their shows (and yes, Tom, I know I over-use this analogy) is like watching a master class in live stage performance.

These old pros, and others of their ilk, are superb at the fine craft of entertaining a live audience. It really is artwork. They know how to work an audience. Every note they sing, and every joke they tell, is so well orchestrated, so well timed. They really make it look like the easiest thing in the world, when in fact it takes decades to build a skill with that level of professionalism.

The man. The legend. The entertainer.

I also find it so interesting how these old timers continually have new faces. Wayne Newton is a prime example of that. The magic marker-black hair and eyebrows. Perfect, white-as-snow teeth. And then there's the trademark complexion: deeply tanned and still as taut as ever. Yet despite the artificiality of his appearance, there was no mistaking the realism of his talent.

He sang. He joked. He played piano, guitar, banjo and the fiddle. And everyone in the audience may as well have been sitting in the palm of his hand.

He opened with Viva Las Vegas. Then went right into Mack the Knife, then right into Billy Vera's At This Moment. Other songs on the set list included: Can't Help Falling in Love With You, The Shadow of Your Smile, Waiting for the Robert E. Lee, The Way You Look Tonight. He closed the show with Danke Schoen followed by an inspiring version of America the Beautiful, which he dedicated to the men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Wayne played House of Blues, Anaheim.

It was a slightly different set list than the last time I saw him, at the Stardust in Las Vegas, back in March of 2000. At the House of Blues show, he skipped MacArthur Park, which I was looking forward to hearing again. And in Vegas, I remember he and one of his backup singers singing the most sensitive version of Endless Love I've ever heard performed.

Another reason why I love Wayne Newton shows has less to do with Wayne than his audience of Wayniacs, who are endlessly entertaining. Needless to say it was a slightly older crowd than is usually seen at House of Blues. And these fans are devoted. There was even a big scuffle in the audience between two factions of women positioning themselves at the front of the stage. And no joke, I was literally pushed aside by a white-haired, 4' 11" octogenarian bee-lining her way to get closer to Wayne. (Amy's sister can attest to this).

I didn't really mind too much though. My eyesight is better than hers.

In the end, I think a description that best sums up the Wayne Newton experience was written by one Fiona Scott-Norman, who in advance of Wayne's Australian gig last month, wrote:

"There are two types of people in the world: those who are dead-set excited that Wayne Newton is coming to town on Sunday, and those who couldn't give a rat's.

The latter group, blinded by Newton's kitsch quotient and unable to see past the piles of cheese that accompany anyone who sings lounge standards and is referred to, non-ironically, as 'Mr Las Vegas', simply don't get it. That's OK. Your loss. But I will say this: you're missing out.

1 comment:

AshBeeLeeLee said...

that night was so much fun, wayne is a pretty funny guy! that old lady was funny, mean but funny.