Do-Wop from Down Under – 60 years of boy-band hits and nonstop fun.
What does a hidden gem look like in a city where every attraction is trying to sparkle more brightly than its neighbor? There are no easy answers to that question, other than to say that “Human Nature: Jukebox” at the Venetian is the show you *need* to see but probably don’t know it yet.
Some tribute shows have a legendary act like the Beatles or the Bee Gees to anchor the brand. Others have an era or famous sound, like Motown or disco. Every artist and genre I just mentioned finds its way into the Human Nature show, under the loose heading of “boy bands.” It’s a wide-ranging revue, best marketed by the image of four clean-cut men in matching blazers and pompadour haircuts, striking a synchronized pose while crooning into vintage microphones. And jeepers, what a show they put on.
Let’s back up. Human Nature is a quartet of Australian singers that formed in 1989 as a retro do-wop group and broke big in the ’90s. There’s no revolving door to this cast. These same four dreamboats – brothers Andrew and Michael Tierney, Toby Allen, and Phil Burton – have released 23 albums under the Human Nature brand and have been certified platinum several times over. Human Nature is no joke.
Well, maybe there is a little bit of a joke in calling them a “boy band” … did I mention they formed in 1989? They are definitely middle-aged, and there’s no hiding it in the intimate Sands Showroom in the Venetian. However, their whizbang of a performance crushes any thoughts of has-been status. Human Nature is electric, full of energy and swoon-worthy charisma from start to finish. In a show spanning hits from the 1950s (Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”) all the way up to the present day (Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”) you may wonder why handsome men in suits doing coordinated dance moves and singing blissful harmonies ever went out of style. Then they drop some New Kids On the Block or medley in some *NSYNC and you remember that it never really did.
Human Nature is big on medleys. “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone seamlessly flows into the Spencer Davis hit “Give me Some Lovin’.” “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake is dropped in the middle of a rendition of “My Girl” by the Temptations. “Good Lovin'” by the Young Rascals gets juxtaposed with a Valens-esque romp of “La Bamba.” They even have the hubris to sandwich their own original song, “Tellin’ Everybody,” into the Jackie Wilson classic “(Your Love Keeps Liftin’ Me) Higher and Higher” – and it works.
The medleys are fun, but the best moments of the show let immortal songs shine. Phil Spector‘s wall-of-sound production keeps tracks like “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” or “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” on the radio, but recordings from that era are still relatively low-fi. Belted in person by these four Aussies with a live backing band, the songs absolutely soar. A capella intros to numbers like “Under the Boardwalk” bring down the house. Sock-hop hits “Runaround Sue” and “Twisting the Night Away” are gleefully augmented by swing dancers.
The costume changes throughout the show are light, with the members of Human Nature mostly cycling through different colors of dinner jacket. It is a nice touch, though, when they all don high school letterman jackets for do-wop classics like “What a Wonderful World” (Sam Cooke, not Louie Armstrong).
It’s not all boy bands, either – Human Nature drops a few girl-band classics into the mix. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles. “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes. The alto range is hit by Andrew Tierney’s high falsetto and contratenor, which also comes in handy for the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees. Every boy band show needs ballads, as well, and the covers of “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King), “I’ll Be There” (Jackson 5), and Roy Orbison’s “Unchained Melody” are devastating. Get out your hankie – no one will judge.
Verdict: Go see “Human Nature: Jukebox” at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino. You can thank me later.