by Ellen Sterling · June 6, 2011
Before I came to Las Vegas, I’d group all celebrity impersonators together. Most of them (like Rich Little) did several impersonations while some, like Vaughn Meader, did one person. (Of course, when his subject, JFK, was assassinated, his career was over.) But, whatever the number of people they did, they were copying the individual. But, since I’ve moved here, I’ve become quite familiar with another group of entertainers who “do” their subjects, but are not impersonators. They are, instead, “tribute artists.”
These people may dress like their subjects, may look and/or sound like their subjects, and they do impersonate them but, yet, there’s a difference. They call themselves tribute artists because, from what I’ve learned, they admire the talent and they want to keep that talent vivid. So, for example, people don’t do Sinatra at 70. They do him in his prime, as he was at his best.
So it is with Harmik, a Tom Jones tribute artist who does Jones’ songbook while looking as Jones did 15 or 20 years ago. And it is the look as well as the familiar music that keeps audiences interested.
Harmik now has a show at the Shimmer Cabaret at the Las Vegas Hilton. In This Is Harmik As Tom Jones, modeled on the Welsh singer’s 1960s TV variety show, his guest stars are former heavyweight champ Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who sings the blues, and singer Marva Scott.
Harmik runs through all the songs one might expect of a Tom Jones show. He opens with the no-longer-performed-by-Tom-Jones-himself early hit, Love Me Tonight and closes with Sex Bomb. In between Harmik kids with the audince, gently coaxing some women from the audience onto the stage to dance with him. Harmik’s take on Jones is gentle and respectful. Charming and gracious, he has fun just as the original himself does onstage. As a result, the audience has fun, too. And that’s the point of it all.
Like Harmik, Marva Scott is a tribute artist. She has covered Tina Turner, Donna Summer, Whoppi Goldberg, among many others. She’s got a great voice and one wishes she’d had the opportunity to do more than the few songs she did.
Joe Frazier is up next. The champ has been singing for decades and recorded some records for Motown and Capital and even played the lounge at Caesars Palace before he fought Ali.
Frazier is joined in song by singer Gregg Austin who, clearly, can carry his own set. Together they are charming and sing the blues as they blues should be sung.
The audience was enthusiastically singing along with Mustang Sally and a few were even dancing throughout his brief set. Sadly, Frazier didn’t get to talk much and, from what I’ve read, he has some good stories. But, it was indeed good to see him.
This Is Harmik As Tom Jones runs through Sunday, June 12. (After that, Harmik tours in his own show in the Northwest. Look for him.)