Wayne Newton September 14
By Glen Creason
The evening almost had a military ring to it despite the overwhelming, Vegas-style flash and over the top swells of splashy orchestral music. A trooper soldiered on but the best moment of the night came when some old soldiers got their due. It was the yearly festival of Wayne Newton, “the midnight idol” and “Mister Las Vegas” who came to Cerritos to hold court before the packed house of “wayniacs.” The one hour and forty minute show is full of fun and music amidst all the bells and whistles one man can fit on a concert stage. The Wayne Newton review features three excellent back up singers, a full orchestra and a talented band that is given plenty of time to shine by the headman.
Newton is of an indeterminate age and only his hairdresser and plastic surgeon know for sure but he looks about twenty-five, yet had hit records when I was being scolded by Sister Leocritia at St. Helen school when Ike was president.
The place was buzzing when the man took the stage and busted off a rocking “C.C. Rider” and “Viva Las Vegas” that brought up comparisons the king himself. Yet Wayne, in his perfect tux, with perfect hair, perfect tan and silky stage persona was saddled with some serious voice limitations. While the old trooper would not let his fans down, he seemed to be battling a cold and was hoarse in speech and song throughout. No mention from the stage, no excuses and the entertainer’s entertainer just played hurt but showed no lack of energy, humor or enthusiasm. “Everyday I Have the Blues” was amped up and spiced by a tasty guitar solo but harkened back to Pat Boone singing Fats Domino. The real Wayne Newton showstopper followed with the full-blown, wide-screen, cinemascope reading of “Lady” that was the mans best moment on the night. And when his normally potent baritone was reduced to a croak he handed the mike over to backup Francis Lee who just stood the entire hall on its ear with her electrifying sanctified shout of “He Looks Beyond All My Faults.” Ms. Lee is certainly not someone you would want to follow so Wayne turned to another talented backup Darlene who romped through the old disco classic “I Will Survive” with the crowd swaying in unison.
With his voice limited Newton turned to his talented fingers and played instrument after instrument like the time-tested entertainment pro he is. There was C&W guitar with Merle Haggard overtones, a stunning “Spanish Eyes,” “Baby Face” done with Dixieland banjo, the “Orange Blossom Special” with flaming fiddle, all washed down with the begged for and delivered, obligatory “Danke Schoen” which hit the charts way back in my high school years. Mr. Newton saved the patriotic portion for the finale of the show and therein lay a moment to remember. Wayne Newton has long been devoted to our troops serving across the globe and is not shy about mentioning his efforts on their behalf. However, when he asked the men and women in the audience who had served to stand up and take a bow it made for some powerful theater indeed. The veterans, many of them of World War II or Korean age stood, somewhat sheepishly at first but when the crowd roared its appreciation for their sacrifice and dedication they all just got a little taller. Even the worst cynic would have had a lump in their throat as the cheers continued until the band broke into a fairly rip-snorting “America the Beautiful” that put a nice punctuation on a pretty special moment.