By Bobbie Katz
Australia’s hottest group brings new life to Motown
On May 23, 2009, Smokey Robinson set the stage for a new act in Las Vegas – one that surprisingly featured four white Aussie guys singing Motown. Now, more than 3 1/2 years later, if you can’t take the heat, you might want to stay out of the showroom – in his inimitable style, the Motown icon has proven once again that where there’s Smokey, there’s fire.
As for the reason behind Robinson’s involvement in this venture, simply call it Human Nature. That’s the name of Australia’s hottest vocal group, which was initially signed to a one-year headlining deal at the Imperial Palace and now has a new in a production called “Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature – The Motown Show” and is moving to their new home at The Venetian on January 19th.
These four young men – Andrew Tierney, Michael Tierney, Toby Allen and Phil Burton, -- offer distinctive and dynamic harmonies, both with a six-piece band and acappella, as they perform Motown’s greatest hits in the newly renamed Human Nature Showroom.. With multi-platinum albums, 17 Top 40 hits and 5 Top 10 hits in Australia since 1996, this group has no match where their unique blend is concerned.
“In their area of the world, these guys are like the Beatles,” says Robinson. “They are getting ready to take the U.S. by storm. I had heard about them because they were recording Motown music. They were doing another album and were looking to have some of the originals duet with them. They wanted me to join them on ‘Get Ready’ and ‘Tears of a Clown’ and they came into my studio and sang for me. I was blown away. It was wonderful to hear guys singing acappella like they were on a street corner. They are singers’ singers. And they’re not only great singers but great dancers. I was so impressed when I saw them perform that I knew they’d be a huge success.”
“We’ve been together 24 years, ever since high school,” adds Andrew Tierney, speaking of the group’s inception. “We always listened to and loved Motown music and wanted to become as good as the Four Tops, the Miracles and the Temptations. We started out singing acappella. We loved the sound we created together and loved singing together. When we first joined forces we called ourselves the Four Tracks, then changed our name to Human Nature when we started recording. We’re really excited about being in Las Vegas – this is a dream come true for us. Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world.”
Phil Burton, the bass singer of the group, explains that the four were in school choir together and knew that they had a special blend fight from the start. He remarks that it was that spark that kept them going.
According to Robinson, even back when he was the lead singer of the Miracles, the groups whose members knew each other from the beginning and started off as friends lasted, but the ones that came from different places and didn’t know each other didn’t.
“It’s the ones who would go into the bathroom and sing because the sound was so good that stayed around,” he smiles. “I have a philosophy – there are no real artists. You just have to keep on doing what you’re doing, keep on improving, keep your head on straight and feel blessed doing the thing that you love. Don’t take show business personally and don’t ruin it by taking yourself too seriously.”
As for four white-bread lads from Australia singing the music by the black groups of this era with such soul, Burton makes the point that Motown Music has always been infectious and international and that it was never black music but rather music for the entire world.
“You can feel the joy in the music,” he states.
Robinson notes that, as a songwriter, it’s a great joy to hear people singing his songs. He says that he feels that the reason his music has lasted so many years is because when he sits down to write, he really tries to write a song and doesn’t focus on it being a hit. He says that he’s heard many variations of his hits sung by others and that he likes and appreciates each and every one.
“Of course, I want a song to be successful but I’ve always really just tried to write a good song , something that could have been around 50 years before today, today, or 50 years from today,” he explains. “If you do that, the song will live on and on. These four guys are totally professional and I’m very proud that they’re singing Motown music. They can sing anything; they can sing the phone book. It’s a matter of pride for me to endorse Human Nature and present them.”
Insofar as where he gets his inspiration from, Robinson reveals that he is not a specialized songwriter but that almost every day of his life something comes to him – an idea, a melody, a phrase, a structure – and he feels that it’s a blessing from God.
“I don’t need to isolate myself and go to the mountains or go to the beach and grow a beard,” he laughs. “It just happens. I’ve had a thought in mind to write a song for Human Nature but I had been working on two albums at the same time. One, “Timeless Love,” is an album of standards that came out and then I released an album of all original songs. So outside projects left me no time. I would still like to write one for the group, though.”
In the meantime, Human Nature will continue to sing all those fabulous Motown hits that they’ve always loved and felt a connection to, including Robinson’s. All four agree that the lasting quality of Motown music has been the great melodies, harmonies, the energy and the nature of the great songs themselves. They say that they like to think that their version is what Motown would look and sound like today and that they are doing a modern take on a Motown revue.
“We love performing this music so much,” sums up Toby Allen. “This show is basically us being inspired by that music.”
By the way, makes a surprise appearance in the show from time to time. But then, what else would you expect from a star who has taken four talented young men under his wing?
Once again, it’s Human Nature.
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.