Human Nature’s holiday performances are required fare, if only to make suitable use of the video clip played during the show.
The vocal quartet will treat fans to 14 Christmas-themed shows beginning Tuesday. The set list includes “O Holy Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Silent Night.”
As for that video, it’s something special, and especially elaborate. It took four months to develop and debuted in November 2013.
The animated clip, set to “White Christmas,” finds the four mates — Andrew and Mike Tierney, Phil Burton and Toby Allen — stranded on the outskirts of Vegas after their car has broken down. Snow salts the terrain as the guys lean on that holiday tune, the scene playing out like one of those old Rankin/Bass Christmas specials.
There were grand plans for the video, which Human Nature paid $100,000 to produce, enlisting acclaimed animator Martin Meunier (“Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”).
The ill-fated idea was to develop a full holiday special, airing each year in the same way that “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are recycled.
“It’s the most expensive backdrop ever,” Andrew Tierney says during an interview in the group’s dressing room at the Sands Showroom at The Venetian.
“Yes, we’re using that for every holiday show until we are 90,” younger brother Mike Tierney adds. “We’ll be showing it to our grandkids one day.”
Call it a $100,000 holiday lesson. But typical of the indefatigable act, which will mark its 27th year together in 2017, they just grin, sing and dance through that misfortune. The clip and holiday tunes, which take up a third of the “Jukebox” holiday show, fit the production as snugly as a Christmas sweater.
“It’s really a ‘Holiday Jukebox’ show,” Andrew Tierney says. “We still have a ‘Jukebox’ theme, but someone just presses ‘Christmas’ for a little while.”
The guys are fully settled into their Venetian production, which was not the case a year ago. Back then, their Motown production had grown stale and their contract was about to expire. A new executive team had ordered a total overhaul to the hotel’s lineup.
Human Nature was at once seeking a new home and being courted, especially by Caesars Entertainment, which wanted the act to take over its showroom at Harrah’s. Instead, last-minute negotiations between show producer Adam Steck of SPI Entertainment and hotel officials kept Human Nature in place, conditional on a retooling of the show.
All sides agreed that “Jukebox” was an easy decision. Human Nature had recorded a hit album with that theme and title in 2014 in Australia (this year’s follow-up also topped the Aussie charts).
“We knew, whatever happened, we needed to stop doing the Motown show,” Burton said. “It had grown old for us. The hotel didn’t want the Motown show, and we didn’t want the Motown show.”
Debuting in April, “Jukebox” is flavored with hits from legendary acts such as the Beatles, the Rat Pack, the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys and even a medley of boy-band stars (‘NSync and New Kids on the Block among them). The result is a fresh approach for an act that today ranks among Las Vegas’ longest-running production shows.
“We look back — what, seven years ago? — and the real news is what isn’t happening in Las Vegas, with all the shows closing,” Burton says.
Allen adds, “People don’t remember that we had a change in venue right in the middle of this run, which helped keep us fresh, but we have been in town for a while.”
Human Nature opened at Imperial Palace (now The Linq) in 2009. In today’s market, the act might not have survived its first two months.
“We see shows that close after four weeks that only sell 60 tickets a night, and it is tough to see that happen,” Andrew Tierney says. “But if you look at how we started, we were not even selling 60 tickets a night when we started. We were selling, like, 20. But we held on because we didn’t have a $2 million investment and expect to make all that money back right away.”
The members of Human Nature ponied up their own funding, along with their producers’, easing their way into more inventive production and adding musicians to their stage show.
“Our budget was very small when we started, just the songs and the dancing rather than the production,” Andrew Tierney says. “We spent more as we went on, but because it was our money in the show, we had to look at each other and ask, ‘Do we want to put more money in this to keep going?’
“No investor was telling us to close because we were losing money.”
Human Nature will break from the Strip show in January, hitting their homeland for a “Jukebox” tour of Australia. For the first time, they will tour the country with their Las Vegas backing band.
“We’ll add some new elements from the second “Jukebox” album, heading into our one-year anniversary of the show in April,” Mike Tierney says. “There is so much good material out there that you can use in the ‘Jukebox’ format.”
Andrew jokes about the next phase: “Jukebox! The Heavy Metal Years!”
Sounds like a winner. It’d make a great video, too … or maybe not.
John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the A section and Friday in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on KUNV-FM, 91.5, and appears at 11 a.m. Wednesday with Dayna Roselli on KTNV-TV, Channel 13. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter and @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.