Las Vegas, we have liftoff. The Cabaret Jazz room has obtained orbit. The Branford Marsalis Quartet fired the jets to launch the “jazz” side of the club (after tepid opener SFJAZZ Collective). Now the room’s monthly fixture, Vegas’ own Clint Holmes, has done likewise for the “cabaret” portion.
Can’t crown him the Bobby Short of Las Vegas yet—Short reigned as a New York institution for more than 35 years. However, Holmes did validate The Smith Center’s decision to install him as the room’s unofficial host. On April 6, the ex-Harrah’s headliner entertained a capacity crowd of 258 with a silky-smooth—and at times really rollicking—90-minute set.
Beginning with his spotlighted entrance on the club floor crooning “What Is This Thing Called Love” as he made his way to the stage to join his band, the silver-suited singer immediately made himself comfy-cozy.
A showman down to his cuticles, Holmes set a high bar to meet the first weekend of every month with a dual tribute to songwriters Cole Porter and Paul Simon, the twin-era repertoire a multigenerational crowd-pleaser. Other performers might take that deep wealth of standards and interpret it as a linear, song-to-song program with some connective patter. Selecting “love” as the overarching theme, Holmes channeled everything into a 90-minute medley without—as the word “medley” suggests—shortchanging any one tune.
Stretches of Porter songs dovetailed into Simon classics and vice versa, as when Holmes seamlessly blended “It’s All Right With Me” with “Have a Good Time” and “It’s De-Lovely” with “Feelin’ Groovy” (a.k.a. “The 59th Street Bridge Song”). Especially engaging was Holmes’ intertwining of Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” with Porter’s “Get Out of Town,” and his half-sung, half-spoken intros to both “50 Ways” and “Still Crazy After All These Years,” fleshing them out as stories as much as songs.
Aided by the four-man vocal group 5th Avenue, creative interpretations of other classics were enfolded into the entertaining evening, including a percolating “Night and Day”; a version of “Loves Me Like a Rock” that could have rocked a New Orleans revival tent; a lovely blues treatment of “Slip-Slidin’ Away”; a mournful “So in Love” and some amusing, stream-of-consciousness riffs, groans and bleats —OK, outright mugging—through “Just One of Those Things.”
Wrap tune “Bridge Over Troubled Water” brought a funny-touching moment when, after thanking family, friends and local celebs (such as Mac King) in the audience, Holmes said he hoped he hadn’t forgotten anyone and was answered by his offspring yelling, “Your daughter!” Finding Brittany, the offspring in question, he serenaded her with a few bars for a sweet “awwww” moment.
Promising original shows every month, Holmes brings to mind a Porter lyric he sang from “At Long Last Love” early in the night: “Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?”
Trust us: It’s the good turtle soup.