Human Nature celebrates three years of channeling Motown on the Strip
By Susan Stapleton
The past year and a half has been a whirlwind for Human Nature, the first Australian singing group to have a residency on the Strip. The quartet—made up of Toby Allen, Phil Burton, Andrew Tierney and Michael Tierney—started their career as a boy band in Sydney known as The Four Trax. Now, 22 years later, the foursome sings Motown hits and celebrates three years on the Strip with a 653-seat theater in their name at Imperial Palace.
Singer Smokey Robinson brought Human Nature to the United States after hearing their Motown renditions when they asked for permission to sing one of his songs. Robinson not only gave them permission, but also wanted to bring their music stateside. The quartet, donning suits and singing in harmony backed by a six-piece band, sure does sound a lot like the Motown artists of yesteryear. Close your eyes and you can almost picture The Temptations or The Miracles, the group’s inspirations, taking the stage, even when they sing a cappella.
So many Motown hits come back to life during the show. The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Baby I Need Your Loving” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” get toes tapping. Choreography just as catchy as the originals keeps the show lively with constant action. Between performances, the crew walks out into the audience to greet guests. And when they’re not moving around or mixing with the crowd, they’re teaching the audience how to do a dance with classic moves to “Stop! In The Name of Love” from The Supremes.
Other numbers touch the heart, such as The Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears,” sung a cappella. “Please Mr. Postman” from The Marvelettes, “My Girl” from The Temptations and later Motown hits such as The Jackson 5’s “ABC” are just some of the numbers that get their due in the show.
In July 2011, the quartet filmed a PBS special at Paris Las Vegas to celebrate their 500th show in Vegas, and then hit the road, touring the East Coast for the first time. Sold-out shows greeted them in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York, a tribute to their rising U.S. popularity. In March of this year, the group released their first album in the United States, The Motown Record, featuring classic hits from the show along with a DVD of the PBS special. Then the group hit the national stage with an appearance on Dancing With the Stars performing Motown hits alongside their mentor Robinson, The Temptations and Martha Reeves of The Vandellas.
The events of the past year and a half only add to their amazing collection of memories that includes performing in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, opening for showstoppers Michael Jackson and Celine Dion and serenading Oprah Winfrey. The second half of the year proves no less ambitious, with a return to Australia to perform Human Nature—This is Christmas in Adelaide and Melbourne. For Human Nature, it’s just another opportunity to keep the spirit of Motown alive.