Revamped Show Proves That Loving Motown is Just ‘Human Nature’

human-nature-approved-1credit-denise-truscello.jpgEvery town—at least in these United States—is Motown.

Resist those grooves, beats and moves and you might get your citizenship revoked. Can’t get off to “Get Ready”? Bolshevik.

This town is more “Mo” than most.

Credit Human Nature, the Aussie foursome that since 2009 has re-created Motor City magic in Las Vegas, and recently motored over from Imperial Palace (now the Quad) to the Venetian, settling into a new residency at the Sands Showroom.

Tweaked rather than overhauled, their production, built on the legendary label’s vast hit catalog, remains a pleasure. This likable quartet matches rich harmonies and authentic soulfulness with old-school sweetness.

Being “presented by” Smokey Robinson doesn’t hurt either.

Faithful fans will note a few upgrades, beginning with a slick new stage that is contemporary—and enlivened by inventive video tricks on a backing screen—yet recalls the old TV variety shows on which the original Motown artists appeared. Several numbers, most notably “Dancing in the Street,” have been refreshed with new synchronized steps, and a cool retro moment has the guys in a video duet with a young Smokey.

Slightly spicing up the set list—that wall-to-wall onslaught of seemingly endless hits—is the inclusion of Marv Johnson’s relatively obscure “Come to Me,” the first release by Berry Gordy’s predecessor label, Tamla Records, later enfolded into Motown. Also tossed in as a departure is “Everytime You Cry,” an original Human Nature hit in their Down Under homeland before they fully embraced Motown and America.

Mixing it up well and backed ferociously by the Funk Foundation band, they deliver barn-burners (“Uptight,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Dancing in the Street”), mid-tempos (“Get Ready,” “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” a.k.a. “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch”) and swooners (“Ooo Baby Baby,” “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination”). Total: 20-plus chart-toppers.

Though the magic of the music alone could carry this show, the lads—brothers Andrew and Mike Tierney, Phil Burton and Toby Allen—make for personable hosts with appealing earnestness. Un-hip though it is to lack “edge,” Human Nature’s between-tunes banter—kidding each other, recounting their Aussie boyhoods, reflecting on their careers, chastely flirting with women in the audience, even showing home movies—is aw-shucks adorable. Should irony, sarcasm and aggressive hipness be your thing, Human Nature won’t be. Should timeless music and guileless charm be your thing, you can hear it through this grapevine.

Human Nature 2.0 is nostalgia nirvana.

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Rejoice, ye connoisseurs of classy, golden-age Vegas—The Phat Pack is back.

One of several shows shuttered when management squabbling broke out over the Plaza Showroom’s operations, this variety-style slice of heaven—starring enormously talented Bruce Ewing, Ted Keegan, Randal Keith and musical director Joey Singer—gives Downtown entertainment an upscale sheen. Showtimes are 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.

No offense intended, but get your phat ass over there.

Snap your fingers, tap your toes and tell us your favorite Motown hit in the comments.

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