Legendary singer Engelbert Humperdinck is coming to get Las Vegas ready for Valentine’s Day, performing twice this weekend at the Orleans. His Prodigal Son tour brings him back to town from California and on the way to Arizona and Florida, and his current shows are chock-full of favorite tunes from November’s album “The Man I Want To Be.”
“I think it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever made and I’m especially proud of it because I normally do cover songs, and this album has seven brand-new songs,” says the 81-year-old English singer born Arnold Dorsey. “I’ve tested some of the songs on the album on the road and so far they’re all very well-received, especially ‘Just the Way You Are,’ which is Bruno Mars’ song that I’ve given with a new treatment.”
The album was created as a love letter to Humperdinck’s wife of 53 years, Patricia, who is battling Alzheimer’s disease. “All the songs were chosen for her. ‘Just Like the First Time’ was written for her,” he says. “I met my wife when she was 17 in the dance hall, asked her to dance, and we’ve been together ever since, and that’s why we have ‘I’m Glad I Danced With You,’ which my daughter co-wrote and my granddaughter Olivia sings on it, and she’s just 9 years old. I’m very proud of her.”
Here’s the rest of my conversation with Humperdinck:
You’ve been performing in Las Vegas since the late ’60s so you’ve seen a lot of change here over the years. I started in 1968 and it’s been a very eventful place for me, because I was taken there in the beginning. I was shown all the hotels to see which one I wanted to play, and I would up at the Riviera when Dean Martin was there [as an entertainer and with a minority ownership]. He took a big hand in it and I was the only one he did that for. I had a home in Las Vegas for about eight years, starting in 1978. It certainly has changed a lot because I remember a time when it took you five minutes to get across town. I also remember coming over for a month and doing 50 shows, two a night, and frequenting Lake Mead for waterskiing and playing a lot of golf.
You said it was easy to choose songs for this last album but how difficult is it to choose songs for your live set? Indeed it is. There are songs like “After the Lovin’” and “Release Me” and “A Man Without Love” that have been trial-tested around the world and so I keep those. “The Last Waltz,” of course. But that’s because I still get the same effect as when they were first recorded. I put my heart and soul into those songs.
You’ve been spending a little less time on the road so you can be at home with your wife more frequently. How has that affected your performances? I’ve decided to do about 80 concerts this year and I suppose that’s a bit of a different routine than what I normally would have done. There was a time I’d do 300 shows a year. But this takes me to all the parts of the world I need to be and I find it’s enough at this point.
My wife is doing fine. I’ve played the album for her and she recognizes my voice and these songs and looks at me a certain way sometimes and smiles and it’s wonderful to see. It does change how I perform because there are times I get a bit more emotional. Some of the lyrics mean more to me now, and it’s not that I haven’t been an emotional performer before because I do consider myself a thespian of music and try to interpret the songs in the most sincere way I can. But I do feel people understand and feel it in different ways.
Engelbert Humperdinck performs at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 and 11 at the Orleans Showroom (4500 W. Tropicana Ave., 702-365-7111) and more info can be found at orleanscasino.com.