Amid an opening-night celebration at Golden Nugget on Tuesday night, a man who has collaborated extensively with Clint Holmes marveled at the singer’s unwavering showmanship.
“I have never heard him sound better,” acclaimed producer and musician Gregg Field said of the astonishingly ageless Holmes, who turned 71 on Tuesday. “He is in total control. It is amazing.”
Field knows from whence he speaks, having won a stack of Grammy Awards (eight) and produced many legendary singers (currently Placido Domingo). In a career spanning four decades, Field has also worked with such stars as Frank Sinatra (he played drums in Sinatra’s final show in February 1995), Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder … a staggering assortment in terms of quality and quantity.
Field also produced Holmes’ wonderful new jazz-infused album, “Rendezvous,” featuring Dave Koz, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jane Monheit, Ledisi, Joey DeFrancesco, Dave Koz, Patti Austin, all performing with the Count Basie Orchestra at Capital Records in L.A.
Through that process, and by watching Holmes ply his craft live, Field knows Holmes is one of the greats. It was a sentiment shared by the opening-night audience at Golden Nugget as Holmes christened a run of Tuesdays and Wednesdays (8 p.m. start) through the end of August.
During the performance, Holmes cracked about his age, “I am 71 tonight — I wonder if the management at Golden Nugget knew that when they signed me. ‘What did he say? He’s 71?’ “
In a performance that was warm and measured, punctuated by powerful moments, Holmes uncorked numbers ranging from “Say Something” by A Great Big World, Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” the twin originals “Playground in my Mind” (his requisite, requested hit from 1974) and “What You Leave Behind,” his collaboration with Koz. Also in play was “I Saw Her Standing There,” The Beatles classic he summoned from his run at Palazzo Theater, and “Hallelujah,” which he started in a whisper and ended in full gale.
Same as the show at Palazzo, Holmes’ showcase is produced by Ken Henderson’s Best Agency of Las Vegas. And also customary, Holmes has surrounded himself with top-of-the-line musicians. Music director Christian Tamburr, a vastly under-appreciated talent in this city, wrote the show’s charts and alternates between piano and vibes. Versatile Vegas vet Rocco Barbato is on sax, guitar great Pablo Gadda on the acoustic and electric six-string, David Ostrem (the original MD of “Baz” when the show was at Light at Mandalay Bay) on bass and the thunderous Jakuba Griffin on drums.
All are holdovers from Holmes’ Palazzo show, and all were given their time to shine with solos. Holmes characteristically makes room to showcase these players in this inherently personal, storytelling experience.
The song in my head was the night ended was Holmes’ own precept, “If Not Now When,” which he wrote after he battling colon cancer more than a decade ago. The resulting surgery and recovery had Holmes asking himself that very question.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have the hunger I have now,” he sings. “Now I am older, but I am stronger. I no longer say, some day, some how.” It’s a performance from an artist who defies time. Holmes marked No. 71 in this new era of life and career. But that’s just another number. Clint Holmes remains a treasure — a Las Vegas treasure — for all time.