Humpy's humdinger of an evening

Engelbert Humperdinck belted out classic hits that were well received by the audience.
Engelbert Humperdinck belted out classic hits that were well received by the audience.PHOTO: DAN WALSH STUDIOS

Engelbert Humperdinck kept the show rolling by keeping audience members guessing as to what was coming next



Mastercard Grand Theatre at Marina Bay Sands/Last Friday

The British balladeer Engelbert Humperdinck, real name Arnold George Dorsey, returned to Singapore after four years and sang the socks off an adoring audience.

Humperdinck, who calls himself Humpy, turned 80 on May 2 and celebrated that by releasing his 81st album, Runaway Country.

To date, he has sold more than 150 million copies of his albums.

With his slicked bouffant, screaming-red shirt and pocket square, black jacket and trousers, he was a swarthy, huggable Heathcliff, swaggering such that it seemed the evening might descend into cheesy "I was there" reverie.

But the moment the consummate entertainer and raconteur burst into song, his soaring, sonorous baritone transported his fans back some 50 years to a simpler, happier time.

What he did not dwell on, however, were his classic hits.

He belted them out all right, from the swoonsome Last Waltz to the pensive After The Lovin' to the chart-topping Please Release Me.

But he bundled four of his very best - The Way It Used To Be, Les Bicyclettes De Belsize, There Goes My Everything and Spanish Eyes - into a medley.

That chop-chop approach stripped the rose tint off this night of nostalgia.

That was a pity as every time his six-piece band struck up a classic, audience members would wave their arms in the air throughout the rendition.

"Applause is the food of artists. Thanks for not starving me," he said at the end of Please Release Me.

How the fans cheered, likely recalling how, at the age of 25, he almost died of tuberculosis from malnutrition.

His mantra is reportedly "move forward" and he did so this evening by keeping his audience guessing as to where he would lead them next.

First, he told them that he enjoyed watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

"They have hidden talent; I'm trying to find it."

Later, before launching into his sixth song, Quando, Quando, Quando, he played a video clip of Dean Martin sparring with him, with Humpy sporting the super- thick sideburns that Elvis Presley stole and made his own look.

Then, a la Natalie Cole and her late father Nat King Cole on their song Unforgettable, he sang Something About The Way You Look Tonight with the recorded voice of Elton John, who had done that duet with him on his 80th album, Engelbert Calling.

He also jammed with the stars in his back-up band, namely guitarist Johann Frank and bassist Adam Cohen.

Saxophonist Jimmy Emerzian also thrilled with his scorching turns that bookended the show.

Humperdinck stopped time halfway through when he gave Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water the Humpy treatment.

His interpretation was too straight and smooth to haunt as the original version does, but he pulled it off nevertheless, with his ever- heartfelt delivery.

On his 13th number, a honky-tonk song from his Runaway Country album, he donned a cowboy hat and did a spot of line dancing, having earlier swivelled his hips to the snazzy A Man Without Love.

Sweating visibly at the end, he said: "I've got to go and sit down; my a** is on fire."

All told, it was a humdinger of an evening, although only half the hall gave him a standing ovation in the end.

He came back on in a red boxer's robe, making like the late Muhammad Ali. Throwing a few punches in elation, he left without an encore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Humpy's humdinger of an evening'. Print Edition | Subscribe