14: Engelbert Forever
Last Friday, my wife and I went to Reno, NV to see Engelbert Humperdinck. Yep, the famous Engelbert. Yep, live. Yep, he still performs. The man is 79 and he tours and performs like he was 19. Wow. I suspect when I’m 79 (if I even make it), I’ll be glad if I remember whether I already went to the bathroom today.
As I’m sure all people a million years or more old will agree, Engelbert was one of the great heart breakers of… the last million years, especially for girls. I don’t think I need to explain much about those great years when he was young and handsome and all. Young people will not understand anyway. So I will focus on the show.
First of all, the audience. Anybody who would look at the audience would determine that this was a special event for a retirement house. I think from all the people there, my wife and I were the youngest. It was really funny and amazing. Bent people, white hair, canes, limping, wheel chairs, the works. Some had nannies, some, younger family members, who “brought them in”. Right next to us was a young Asian couple, probably in their 20s. They didn’t know Engelbert but his dad was a great fan, so they bought him a ticket to make the old man happy. And they came along to see what’s the story with that dinosaur. They were very puzzled that it was very hard to get tickets for the show. In their young generation, they no longer remember (or care) who was the big star 5 years ago.
About the show itself. It ran nearly two hours with no intermission! That in itself is a big accomplishment. Physically, his age shows and it’s not surprising. In terms of his singing, his voice is still strong and good but I think it is now harder for him to maintain a note for a long time. He sings his phrases in short bits, generally in a lower scale, etc. to avoid challenging his chords too much. He can still reach high notes (and he did) but it seems to be harder for him and he didn’t do it much. Probably for the same reason, his singing was softer and sometimes was hard to hear over the orchestra, especially as he has the habit of moving the mic away from his face when singing more loudly (professionals usually do).
But honestly, at the end of the day, that was all minor stuff. He started to sing and we all got lost in the sound, the music, the memories, the emotions. The audience (remember: average age was probably 70) suddenly came to life, just like they were back in their 20s and it was all magic. We yelled and whistled and waved hands and relived the dream. Humperdinck is very experienced and knows how to deliver a show. It was worth every cent and every minute, including the 4-hour drive in each direction. My wife even had a few tears.
A few interesting moments:
Humperdinck ran a video of comedian Eddie Izzard making fun of his name. Funny. Nice to see Engelbert took this whole name thing lightly:
Recently, Humperdinck finished a new album of duets. It’s called Engelbert Calling and includes hits with many big icons from the music world. In the show, he performed one of those songs – Something About the Way You Look Tonight – with Elton John. Engelbert sang his part live right there and then with Elton’s voice playing in a video on the screens. Was a nice trick. And I love the song and Elton John, so it was a treat all around.
During the show Humperdinck sang a song I didn’t know: How I love You. What a beautiful ballad. I loved the lyrics. Anybody old enough (as we all surely were) recognizes and appreciates the words and the emotions. Not sure how I never heard it before. So there you are, old Engelbert still teaches me things.
It turns out that Humperdinck has an old tradition in his shows that I didn’t know about: He uses red handkerchiefs to wipe his face during the show and at the end, he gives them out to people in the audience. Shortly before the end of the show, most of the people in the audience suddenly got up and rushed towards the stage, as if by some secret command. My wife and I were puzzled what was happening but decided to go with the flow and joined them. Since we were among the last to arrive at the stage, we found space only at the very side of the stage. I took that opportunity to shoot the last few minutes of the show. That includes the part when he started to give out those red handkerchiefs.
As you can see in the video, just by coincidence, he threw the last handkerchief more or less in my direction, as I was shooting. And you can see how at that very moment, the video becomes all crazy and blurry for a few seconds. You might imagine why. Yes, I caught it! What a cool bonus to a great experience. My wife just couldn’t be happier.
If you look carefully, you will see his signature embroidered into the handkerchief at the lower left corner (zoom in). Turns out this is a desirable collectible. Sellers are asking for hundreds of Dollars on eBay for these.
So there we are. A beautiful experience. Humperdinck is not young and we are very happy we had this opportunity to experience this legend.