"At Harrah's Lake Tahoe there was an incident when the lights went dim and the band still played the charts. Wayne showed his appreciation by buying us a T.V. for the band room. I played for him at Harrah's Reno, the Circle Star in San Carlos and The Frontier Hotel, where the band had a lot of trouble makers, but Wayne still got an amp for Charlie Mac Lean." He worked with him at the Hilton (when it was still known as the 'International'). He said, "I also did a Christmas album with him. I made quite a bit of money working for Wayne. He was always very nice to me. I played lead alto on all but the Frontier band. I played oboe and English horn on the Harrah's jobs. He always gave the audience a good show -- just like Madonna and Liza Minelli."
Last night was no different. He had the audience out of their seats several times during the show which lasted almost 2 hours. He started off with a high energy medley that included Viva Las Vegas and continued singing familiar songs, joking with the audience, egging on the musicians and sharing stories of his travels with the USO Tours, Dancing with the Stars, his numerous hits and albums. His back-up singers included award winning gospel singer Francis Lee who has been performing with him for over 30 years, who he brought up mid-show to sing Amazing Grace. And there was Jenevi, who has been with him over 20 years and Darlene who joined him 3 years ago. They were all incredible singers providing beautiful vocals in the background, but also showing their individuality as he introduced each one.
Wayne is backed by long-time musical director Don Vincent and the Don Vincent Orchestra. The 18 piece orchestra included the rhythm section, brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion; a wonderful complement to the variety of songs Wayne sings. His arrangements have always been incredibly well-written, often building powerfully to the end of the song. This is the foundation for any performer to have when standing onstage in front of an audience, just one of the keys to Wayne's success and well-earned title as Mr. Las Vegas.
He paid tribute to the men and women who are serving our country now and he honored the Veterans by turning the lights on in the audience and asking all of them to stand up and accept our gratitude for their service dedicating a medley of Patriotic songs to them.
And yes, the women are still vying for his attentions. One woman in the front row stood up when he leaned down to shake her hand. She grabbed him and planted a long kiss. As he released himself from her grip and smiled that well-known boyish grin he reminded everyone that his wife was in the audience and he might be paying for that afterwards.
Brothers Lonnie and Ronnie came onstage performing a Rap Song, but after a tongue-in-cheek reprimand from Wayne they stripped off their uniforms to reveal suits and went into a classic tap routine that had the audience standing and applauding. Then Wayne brought Lonnie back out to sing and play trumpet on the Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong favorite 'A Wonderful World' which the audience loved.
After almost 2 hours of performing non-stop, singing his hit songs including 'Danke Schoen' and closing with a high energy medley, Wayne said goodnight to his audience, promising to join his fans afterwards for a meet and greet where he took photos with every one of them. This is what he does for his fans. He knows they are important and always treats them special showing them his appreciation by spending time with them after each show. In my opinion this is one of his characteristics that has lead to a long and successful career.
When Bobbie took me backstage to meet him after the show he was gracious when I told him my story about watching him in rehearsals as a little girl. He remembered my dad and when he bought the musicians the T.V. for the band room. When I told him about my tribute album and that he was one of the people I was honoring along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Bobby Darin, he laughed and said, "I'm in good company."
I want to thank my friend, Bobbie Katz, for inviting me. Wayne Newton was as I remembered him from my childhood, friendly, funny, a gentleman and a true performer. It was wonderful meeting him again as an adult and watching him perform as only he can. He is truly Mr. Las Vegas!