Harmik as Tom Jones


The eyes have it. They bulge, roll and leer.

The mouth has it, too. Harmik, the Tom Jones impersonator, explains the key to the pop legend's essence is looking like "the cat that ate the canary."

"It's a confidence you can't describe," he says.

Harmik's confidence booster is looking as much like the real Jones as any other human is ever likely to. Let's take the high road and skip the whole "Tom Jones: Sock or no sock?" debate. Let's just say that from the chin up it's an amazing resemblance, from the lascivious grin to the crow's feet around his eyes.

The ears aren't so easily fooled into thinking Harmik's tribute at the Four Queens is the real deal. But there are good reasons for rolling with it.

For one, the new enterprise inside the young Canyon Club is the best show bargain in town. Right now, a $29.95 ticket includes a rib-eye dinner that on its own is a deal at $6.99.

Locals who say show prices confine them to suburban casinos should swoop in to discover the relaxed vibe of the underpromoted Canyon Club. It's operated by a House of Blues co-founder but is more like the private House of Blues Foundation Room than the concert hall at Mandalay Bay.

Still, Harmik Kazanchian's long-form tribute is more narrow in appeal than the usual "Legends"-style variety format. And no other local tribute shares the odd twist of the real Tom Jones still being active on the Strip, performing at the MGM Grand several times per year (and for a $75 ticket that's still accessible compared to Celine or Elton).

If "The Voice" wasn't still knocking 'em dead at 67, the younger Harmik could be held to a lower standard. But on this night, he lacked the booming baritone that still seems to come easy to the real Jones. He cradled the melodramatic choruses to "Delilah" and "It Looks Like I'll Never Fall in Love Again" instead of belting the stuffing out of them.

(After the show, Harmik explained he had fried his voice a couple of nights prior when his monitor amps failed, and he had to get an anti-inflammatory shot. It's tough to knock him on the singing because he didn't try to keep the reviewer away. Especially when the reviewer called at the last minute after another show had cry-babied its way out of an appraisal, claiming it didn't have its best people that night. And folks think this job is so easy.)

Harmik's seven-piece band with a trio of horns is a luxury at these ticket prices. But again, the proximity of the real deal makes for tough comparisons to Jones' dynamic stage band and live show. It's admirable that Harmik tackles the cheeky "Sex Bomb" or "Tom Jones International" -- European hits known only by hard-core fans in the States -- but Harmik's band plays them like '60s arrangements; no samples or deep bass.

And while the real Jones can walk out and sing whatever he feels like, Harmik takes to overnarrating for the benefit of the marginally acquainted: "In 1966, I made this album called ..."

Fortunately, the bulk of it isn't such a dry history lesson. Harmik summons middle-age women of all ages to grab 'em some chest hair and dance along with fun throw downs such as "Hard to Handle," "Get Ready" and Prince's "Kiss."

Harmik also is great at staying in character and mimicking the Tomcat's Welsh lilt closely enough to deliver the randy entendres. In fact, it says a lot about the set's fun quotient to note there's only a couple of serious songs -- "Green, Green Grass of Home," the obligatory "My Way" -- to get in the way.

The real Jones may have earned a lion-in-winter kind of respect and credibility in recent years. But there's no need for the tribute act to copy that just yet.

 

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