It was apparent looking out over the sea of silver-haired music fans at the sold-out Engelbert Humperdinck concert, that it would be a night of nostalgia, February 9th, at the Chumash Casino Resort. The show in the Samala showroom did begin as very much a walk down memory lane, with a film clip from the 1960’s of Dean Martin introducing a young Humperdinck to his television audience. But from the moment the six-piece band of young musicians began to play in a full contemporary rock concert mode, it was clear that the 81-year-old Humperdinck was going to put on a show more relevant to 2018. The band along with a pair of sexy, soulful backup singers laid down the music with sizzling flair and a few solos that would fit right in with any modern rock band.
Humperdinck, who sauntered onstage almost immediately after the band hit their first notes seemed gleeful and happy, living in the moment. The octogenarian began with a cover tune from his new album; the Willie Nelson tunes Crazy. The show featured no autotune or overdubbing just the singer's real voice on lead vocals. The first few songs were a little rough, with the singer struggling with a few notes. Judging from the array of drinks on his table, he may have been fighting off a cold. But the consummate performer sweats it out and by the time he was several songs into his set hit his stride, singing notes that would be a stretch for any singer less than half his age. The lively singer was also a good storyteller and stand-up comedian; skills no doubt he acquired in his decades of Las Vegas performances. Early on he parodied Tom Jones, joking about stuffing his pants and joked about Dean Martin, before covering Martins Everybody Loves Somebody.
But the biggest surprise of Humperdinck's 50th-anniversary show came with the performance of songs from his new album. The bad boy gospel-infused Prodigal Son showcased his astounding vocal skills and put him on a mercurial stride for the rest of the show. A particularly moving moment came next when Humperdinck sang a duet with his nine-year-old granddaughter Olivia via a video clip on the massive video screens at the Samala Showroom. Before the original tune from the new album, I’m Glad I Danced With You, Humperdinck dedicated the song to his longtime wife who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He told the story of how he met her when she was a young 17-year-old dancer, and they have been together ever since. The video interspersed photos of the couple over the years with the duet by their granddaughter. Humperdink showed his love for country music playing. You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me and Jim Reeves’ Welcome to My World. The confident singer then belted out a bluesy version of I Can't Stop Loving You, including a great guitar solo from his young lead guitarist. Back to storytelling, the well-traveled singer told a story of meeting a young five-year-old fan in Hawaii who sang for him. Humperdinck told the child that he would be a big star someday. True to his prediction the young Bruno Mars has become the hottest pop singer in the world and Humperdinck played a rousing cover of Mars’ Just The Way You Are, also found on the new album. That brought the first extended standing ovation of the night.
Humperdinck then launched into an extension medley of his biggest hits, again showcasing the jam band talents of his crack backing band. By the time Humperdinck launched into his encore, 17 songs and one long medley into his set, the crowd at the Chumash Casino had swarmed the stage in a triumphant end to a fantastic show.