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Spotlight Central

Dedicated Fans Follow Their Hearts to Engelbert Humperdinck’s 50th Anniversary Concert LIVE! at BergenPAC

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

It’s Friday, April 7, 2017, and excitement is in the air as we, along with so many others, traverse bustling North Van Brunt Street in Englewood, NJ.

We reach address #30 and join the throng of people filing into the lobby of the Bergen Performing Arts Center (BergenPAC), anxious to experience tonight’s special event — Engelbert Humperdinck’s 50th anniversary concert celebrating the release of his 1967 hit, “Please Release Me.”

As we make our way inside, we meet Annette from Hamilton, NJ who tells us she’s been a devoted fan of Engelbert’s since the 1960s.

Noting that her mother was also a fan, Annette discloses, “This is my annual ‘spring’ pilgrimage. I’ve seen Engelbert about 30 times — two times every year — once every spring and once every fall.”

Annette shows us a “50th anniversary gift” she’s brought for Engelbert — a box of Godiva chocolates and a card — telling us about the accompanying message she wrote him which reads, “‘Dear Engelbert, All those singers out there today think they’re performers? They’re not. You are.”

As fans continue to make their way through the lobby, Annette introduces us to her friend, Anna, from Yardville, a relatively new fan of Humperdinck’s. Anna tells us she had never even heard Humperdinck’s music until just a few years ago when, as she explains, “Annette told me she wanted to go to an Engelbert concert, and said she needed a ride.”

Ever since, Anna’s husband, Ray, has volunteered to drive both women to numerous Humperdinck concerts. Now an enthusiastic fan, Anna reveals, “I find Engelbert’s songs to be very soothing — very loving. In fact, Ray and I even celebrated our 50th anniversary to one of his songs.”

Walking from the busy lobby into the rapidly-filling BergenPAC auditorium, we come upon Samia and Elias, who tell us they came to see Engelbert Humperdinck here in Englewood, NJ all the way from Kuwait!

A long-time fan, Samia exclaims with a smile, “I married Elias because he looked like a young Engelbert.”

Moreover, Samia discloses that her father was also a fan of Humperdinck’s for nearly a half century and always kept with him a photo of himself taken with Engelbert back in the 1970s.

“Why do you like him so much?” we ask the couple, who traveled nearly 7000 miles to see their musical hero.

Replies Samia, “When Engelbert sings, it feels like he’s singing every song personally to me.” Elias further adds, “Engelbert Humperdinck is one of the very few performers still around who sings music that will stand the test of time.”

Inside the auditorium, we also meet Linn, a young man from Moorestown, NJ, who tells us he’s seen Humperdinck in person between 30 and 40 times — “since I was a bottle baby,” he reveals.

Linn tells us that both his mother and grandmother were fans of Engelbert and that his mother was even a member of a fan club which, as Linn explains, “used to decorate Mr. Humperdinck’s dressing room whenever he performed in Atlantic City.”

According to Linn, his mom would follow Engelbert to concerts around the country, and Linn remembers “making pilgrimages to Las Vegas, New York, and South Carolina” with his mother while growing up. In fact, Linn tells us that when he was five, he was even brought up on stage with Engelbert when Humperdinck performed at Resorts International Casino in Atlantic City.

Linn recalls that once he got on stage, Engelbert’s drummer, Tony Savage, gave him a pair of drumsticks and asked him if he would like to sing on the microphone.

Regarding that experience, Linn now states, “I was terrified. I jumped off the stage and hid under a table, and my poor mother and everyone else spent the entire night trying to convince me to come out from under it!”

That early childhood trauma notwithstanding, Linn still loves Mr. Humperdinck, declaring, “Engelbert transcends generations. He’s still going strong — still touring — and the number one reason is because he appreciates his fans; he just adores his fan base.”

Linn takes a moment to introduce us to his friend, Emily, from Hainsport, NJ whom he’s asked to accompany him to this special Engelbert Humperdinck 50th anniversary concert at BergenPAC.

Reveals Emily, “This is my very first time at an Engelbert concert. I don’t really know his music at all,” smiling while admitting, “I usually listen to country and metal.”

As we ponder just how this first-time concert-goer will find tonight’s performance, the house lights dim and the packed house begins to cheer as the members of Engelbert Humperdinck’s band make their way onto the stage.

On a large screen overhead, we’re treated to a classic TV clip of singer Dean Martin doing a comedy sketch where he mispronounces Engelbert Humperdinck’s name each time he tries to introduce Humperdinck to his television audience.

As the BergenPAC crowd chuckles, the clip finishes and a sign flashes, “The Legend Continues…” At this point, Humperdinck’s talented band begins to play a medley of 50 years of Engelbert Humperdinck hits.

Soon, the stage glows red, and the audience can hear — emanating from off-stage— that famous full-sounding baritone voice of Engelbert Humperdinck, never sounding better.

Within moments, Engelbert enters, singing the lyrics, “I’m crazy for loving you,” from Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” to which an enthusiastic fan screams, “Oh my God, I love you!”

After moving on to a memorable rendition of “Am I That Easy to Forget?” the crowd cheers and Humperdinck uses one hand to acknowledge his music director, David Arana, while with his other hand, he blows a kiss to his adoring fans.

“I’m celebrating my 50th anniversary,” Humperdinck explains to the audience, “so I’m going to do everything like I’m 50!”

Going on to introduce his next number, Humperdinck says, “This next song says everything a performer wants to say to an audience.”

Launching into Gladys Knight’s “You’re the Best Thing that Ever Happened To Me,” Humperdinck points directly to his fans in the audience and warmly sings directly to them.

Next, Engelbert invites the crowd to sing along with him on two of his biggest hits, “Man Without Love” and “After the Lovin’,” to which the entire house happily obliges.

Lights flashing, the room starts to shake when Engelbert’s band plays “The Stripper,” and Humperdinck starts to remove his jacket and strut his stuff. There are cat calls from the audience, one fan enthusiastically screaming out, “Give it to me!”

Smiling, Mr. Humperdinck proposes a toast to all of his loyal fans saying, “Here’s to you and here’s to me. Shall we always be friends.”

On his next classic Humperdinck number, “Quando, Quando, Quando,” the famous baritone invites his back-up singers to dance with him while ace band member Johann Frank plays a rockin’ electric guitar solo.

As the lyrics to another Humperdinck song, “Girl of Mine,” flash on the screen behind him, Engelbert invites the audience to sing along with him yet again.

Then, he performs one of two songs which he says may soon be released as his “50th anniversary single.” In the first of these two new numbers, he sings, “I can hear the sounds of words so softly spoken/I don’t want to call it goodbye,” the audience cheering mightily in response to the song.

Humperdinck and the band follow this up with a medley of several more of Engelbert’s classic hits — “This Moment in Time,” “The Way it Used to Be,” “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize,” “There Goes My Everything,” “Spanish Eyes,” and “Love is All I Have to Give” — after which he receives a well-deserved standing ovation.

“I’m so proud of all of those songs,” exclaims Engelbert, before launching into a tune which, he says, “is played in every dance hall around the world at the end of the night” — “The Last Waltz.”

Making fun of his own name — calling himself both “Humpy” and “Engy” — Humperdinck performs a world-class vocal rendition of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” for which he not only earns a standing ovation from the crowd but an earnest round of applause from his band members as well.

Acknowledging, “It’s every artist’s dream to appear on Broadway,” Humperdinck presents an energetic version of “On Broadway,” and follows that up by spotlighting the members of his top-notch band as they play “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Announcing, “Now it’s time for the ‘celebration song,’” Engelbert sings his 1967 #1 worldwide hit, “Release Me,” still sounding as good as he did on the legendary recording he made a half-century earlier!

After receiving yet another standing ovation, Humperdinck returns to the stage to sing the second number he says could be released as his 50th anniversary single, “I Followed My Heart.”

As the audience cheers, Humperdinck closes his magical evening of song with “You’re My World.” Afterwards, he takes leave of the stage for a moment, but soon returns sporting a red robe and, then — at the tender age of 82 — vigorously shadow boxes for the crowd!

Following the performance, we catch up with Annette — the woman we first met in the lobby — standing in the front row, tossing her gift of candy and a card up and on to the stage.

After a few moments, when Annette notices it hasn’t yet been picked up by Engelbert or a member of his band, Toni, a friendly security guard, comes to her rescue and offers to deliver it to Mr. Humperdinck for her.

“Thank you so much!” exclaims Annette, before disclosing, “I always bring him chocolates now — but I used to bring him cigars.”

Lucky to have had seats in the front row, Annette exclaims, “I throughly enjoyed this concert; there’s no way I would ever want to sit in the back!”

Annette’s friend, Anna, agrees and adds, “Obviously, Engelbert Humperdinck is an icon. You have to respect his talent. It’s a privilege to see him perform — his whole body just sings.”

Making our way up the aisle, we also catch up with Samia from Kuwait. She tells us that, at the end of the show, she ran down to try to meet Engelbert, acknowledging, “Even though I couldn’t get a picture or an autograph, I still love him.”

We also come upon Emily — invited by her friend, Linn, to experience her very first Engelbert concert — who asserts, “I really liked it! You can be sure I’ll be coming back for more!”

And Linn — who’s seen Humperdinck so many times since childhood — chimes in, declaring, “He hasn’t lost his touch at all! He still sounds great!”

As we make our way back through to the lobby, we come upon two fans whom we hadn’t yet met before — Gail and Meredith — a mother and daughter who traveled from Atlanta, GA by train to BergenPAC just for this evening’s special 50th anniversary performance by Engelbert Humperdinck.

Says Gail, who’s been a fan of Humperdinck’s for over 40 years, “This concert was a Christmas gift from my daughter. I’ve been going to shows with her since she was a little girl. In fact, in Wheeling, West Virginia, when Meredith was six years old, she was kissed on-stage by Engelbert and a photo of the pair was published in the local newspaper.”

And as if right on cue, Gail’s daughter, Meredith, takes out her mobile phone and shows us that very photo and article, admitting with a smile, “I’m a fan because of my mom — but I really do love Engelbert and his music.”

As a result of our presence here at Engelbert Humperdinck’s momentous 50 year concert celebration at BergenPAC, it occurs to us that, for all of the devoted fans who traveled here from places in New Jersey — in addition to those who made the pilgrimage from elsewhere in this country and from around the world — experiencing Engelbert Humperdinck live is more than merely attending a concert.

For them, it’s a profound tribute to the man which comes from following their hearts.

And that is something which — even after a half-century — Engelbert Humperdinck recognizes and appreciates, because he feels the exact same way, particularly as evidenced when he earnestly sings to them from his potential 50th anniversary single:

This one thing is true

I followed my heart

Every single part

From the very start…

I followed my heart.

For more information about Engelbert Humperdinck’s 50th anniversary concert tour, please go to engelbert.com. To learn more about upcoming concerts at BergenPAC — including David Crosby on May 16, Donovan on June 1, and Blood, Sweat & Tears with Bo Bice on June 15 — please go to bergenpac.org.

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