x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Engelbert Humperdinck takes his love songs to Dubai

Speaking before his upcoming concert in Madinat Jumeirah, the British crooner confesses to still experiencing nerves before stepping onto the stage.

Engelbert Humperdinck will perform at Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday. Ethan Miller / Getty Images / AFP
Engelbert Humperdinck will perform at Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday. Ethan Miller / Getty Images / AFP

It's been more than 50 years and it's that same old feeling.

The British crooner Engelbert Humperdinck confesses to still experiencing nerves before stepping on to the stage.

He welcomes the feeling, he says, but it's the mental stimulation more than the sheer adrenalin of performance that is keeping him going.

"For me, it is all about learning," Humperdinck says. "If you don't learn as you grow, you should get out of the business. I just find that you never stop learning in that industry."

But it's easier to forget.

Speaking before his forthcoming concert at Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday, Humperdinck forgets the name of an album or song a few times during our interview.

"Sorry, I can't remember the title. There are so many," he chuckles. "I've done a lot of albums of different sorts."

With more than 80 albums - of which 150 million copies were sold - and hundreds of songs recorded during a career that started more than 50 years ago, you don't blame him. It also requires a lot of consideration when creating a set list for each world tour.

"That goes with trial and error," he says. "I record every year, so there is always new material to perform on stage. If the song goes well, it goes down in the show."

Of course his signature tune, the sweet and lilting Release Me, will be among the mix.

Upon its release in 1967, it remained in the UK charts for 56 weeks and reached number one in 11 countries. It also vindicated one of pop music's most outrageous decisions: that Engelbert Humperdinck was a more catchy stage name than his real-life moniker Arnold Dorsey.

Release Me, as well as the hits We Made It Happen and Too Beautiful To Last, were all also responsible for Humperdinck being referred to as the "king of romance", providing him with a ticket to the bright lights of Las Vegas at a time when The Rat Pack and The King reigned supreme.

Humperdinck recalls that famed musical era as a time when musicians acted as a fraternity, rather than the cut-throat competition of today's pop world.

"There was a camaraderie and we were all friends," he says. "We walked in on each other's stages and there was no jealousy or animosity, we all loved each other."

Dean Martin took such a particular liking to Humperdinck that he invited the young singer to play at the Riviera Hotel, which he owned at the time. Martin also insisted on giving his staff the unenviable task of fitting enough letters on the hotel marquee, to state: "Dean Martin presents Engelbert Humperdinck."

While he credits Martin for instilling in him an easygoing demeanour offstage, Humperdinck credits Elvis Presley for his heartfelt performances.

"In the early years, you went out to see the professionals. If you are going to steal, you should steal from the best," he says.

"Elvis Presley showed me the importance of humility on stage and not taking audiences for granted."

Part of that also means keeping track of current music trends. While the likes of Lady Gaga and Adele may seem foreign upon first glance, Humperdinck sees a musical affinity with the pair.

"There is a return to great arrangements and melodies," he says. "With this girl Adele being around and this Lady Gaga - I know she is a bit wild but very talented - they are keeping the business fresh and much talked about."

As for keeping his classics fresh for the ears of future generations, Humperdinck credits other modern innovations in partly maintaining his career longevity.

"Over the years, my audiences have been across the board," he says. "I have to say I was in Manila and Singapore recently and I had a very young audience. I couldn't believe it, they were all singing the songs ... Maybe it's karaoke."

 

Engelbert Humperdinck will perform on Wednesday at Madinat Jumeirah's Joharah Ballroom. Tickets start from Dh500 from www.timeouttickets.com

 

sasaeed@thenational.ae