The Magic of Detroit’s Motown Museum: Human Nature’s Personal Tie to This Music Landmark

Posted by on Monday, September 29th, 2014

One of the things the members of Human Nature are most proud of is getting to play a small role in keeping the spirit and legacy of Motown music alive. With every show—be it in Vegas, back home in Australia, or the small towns on the group’s recent U.S. tour—Andrew, Michael, Phil, and Toby get to connect with live audiences and share their passion for these songs that changed the world. Sometimes that means performing for fans who have loved Motown for decades. Other times, it means introducing this music to people who have never really experienced or absorbed it before, passing on “the spark” to a new generation. In this way, Human Nature and their band serve as ambassadors of sorts to the Motown Sound and one of the traveling extensions of the label’s historic Detroit roots.

motown museum

The Motown Museum at Berry Gordy’s original Hitsville USA studio location in Detroit.
Image source: Wikimedia.org

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Keeping the Funk Alive: Human Nature’s Backing Band Continues a Proud Motown Tradition

Posted by on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

For as often as we describe Human Nature as a quartet, anyone who has ever seen the group’s Motown show will know that it takes far more than four people to pull off a nightly spectacular of this magnitude. There’s the stagehands, sound and lighting technicians, management, security, the staff at the Venetian, and perhaps most importantly of all, there’s the Funk Foundation—or as some folks call them, “the best band in Vegas.”

Human Nature and motown group Funk Foundation

Human Nature with their mighty backing band, the Funk Foundation.
Image source: Alicia Lee via Facebook

Yes, it’s fair to say that Human Nature’s longtime seven-piece back-up band doesn’t get quite the same level of attention as the four front-and-center crooners themselves. But for the Funk Foundation, that’s exactly how they prefer it. After all, these remarkably talented musicians are proudly following in the footsteps of the original purveyors of “The Motown Sound”— the collective of Detroit studio musicians who later came to be known as The Funk Brothers.

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When Human Nature Went Happy Days

Posted by on Friday, August 22nd, 2014

It was 1999, the height of boy band hysteria—and Y2K paranoia. Seemingly the last thing that would be on anyone’s mind was a TV sitcom from more than two decades in the past. But as the fates would have it, the 25th anniversary celebration of the classic American show Happy Days had found its way to the shores of Australia, and our friends in Human Nature were about to get wrapped up in one of the more unique and memorable projects of their career.

“Yes, we once performed in an arena musical version of Happy Days,” Phil Burton concedes. “That was probably funny enough in itself. But what was even funnier was what happened at the end-of-tour party.”

Before we get to that classic moment in Human Nature history, though, let’s first revisit how they got there.

Happy Days screenshot

Henry Winkler and Ron Howard on set in a scene from the original Happy Days TV show in 1974.
Image source: ABC Television via wikimedia.org

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Different Roads: Human Nature Compares US vs Australia Tour Experiences

Posted by on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

On August 6th, Human Nature’s mini summer tour of the U.S. Eastern seaboard kicked off with a set at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut. By the time the tour concludes on August 17 in Boston, the boys will have played nine shows in five cities. It certainly won’t surpass the most miles they’ve ever racked up on the road, but it does represent one of the group’s first extended opportunities to tour the States in a more traditional sense. And Phil Burton hopes it’s just the beginning.

“Yeah, we still haven’t done what you’d consider a full ‘tour’ in the US,” he says. “We have hit the road a couple of times before this, but never for a long period of time. I can’t wait to do it, though! Just the idea of getting down and dirty, sleeping in a bus and seeing a whole bunch of different places in the US would be kind of ‘living the dream’ for any performer. It’s something you don’t get to do in Australia, as everything is so spread out. You need to fly everywhere. Also because Australia has such a small and concentrated population, you can tour almost the whole country in a matter of a few weeks.”

Waterbury!

Waterbury, CT, was stop #1 on Human Nature’s special summer swing through the Northeast US. Image from wikimedia

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“My Ultimate Concert Lineup”: Human Nature’s Phil & Toby Name the Music Artists They’d Most Love to See Live in One Show

Posted by on Monday, July 14th, 2014

It’s a type of question usually relegated to record store counters and online message boards: “If you could curate your very own music festival, who would be the three headline acts, and what venue would you choose?” Now, for most of us, a fantasy scenario like that is purely the stuff of which dreams are made. But for professionals like Human Nature, who’ve personally shared stages with the likes of Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson, talking about the music artists to include on an “Ultimate Concert Lineup” is actually pretty serious business.

Enter Phil Burton and Toby Allen. As fifty percent of Human Nature, they’ve grown from wide-eyed teenage fans of pop and R&B music to platinum-selling success stories in their own right—traveling the world and performing alongside other wildly talented artists from Brisbane to Boston. After 20 years, it can sometimes be difficult to separate the “professional” side of the music experience from that initial “fandom” that inspired them in the first place. But rest assured, it’s always there. And both Phil and Toby still listen to music—new and old—every bit as much as they perform their own.

Human Nature performs

Human Nature have gained quite a following in their own right, but have some ideas of music artists they would include in their dream concert lineups.
Image source: Flickr user jeaneeem

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Daily Rituals: After 1,000 Shows in Vegas, Human Nature Reveals How They Prep for Each Night

Posted by on Friday, June 27th, 2014

It seems like only yesterday that Human Nature left their native Australia to set forth on an exciting—but admittedly risky—journey. Starting out in the showroom in Las Vegas’s Imperial Palace, the quartet would bring its unique take on a distinctly American musical tradition to a whole new audience of… Americans! For all the group’s years of acclaim—and even with the huge support of the iconic Smokey Robinson—there was no guarantee that “The Motown Show” would connect with Vegas show-goers. More than 1,000 performances later, however, the verdict is in. Human Nature has conquered the New World.

“It’s crazy to think we’ve done more than a thousand shows in Las Vegas,” says Phil Burton. “We weren’t sure when we started whether we’d even make it through the first month, but here we are five years later! …I think the thing that has changed the most since show #1 is that we are much more confident about our place in Vegas. We aren’t worried about going home with our tails between our legs anymore, and that means we can now branch out a little and work on new ideas for the future.”

Back on April 12, Human Nature marked that landmark 1,000th Vegas show with a very special appearance by none other than the legendary Smokey himself, who joined the guys on stage at the Venetian’s Sands Showroom to sing a couple classics.

 

Human Nature with Smokey Robinson

Human Nature welcome Smokey Robinson at their 1,000th Vegas show back on April 12, 2014.

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Perfect Pitch: World Cup Fever Has Human Nature Seeing Parallels Between Sports and Music

Posted by on Friday, June 13th, 2014

If it seems like the boys in Human Nature are displaying a little extra Australian pride this month, there may be an easy explanation. Yes, World Cup fever has spread all the way to the deserts of Las Vegas, and like just about every other soccer/football fan on the planet, your favorite crooners will be keeping long-distance tabs on the goings on down in Brazil (as it happens, the Australian team is in a mighty tough grouping with Chile, the Netherlands, and Spain). With all this in mind, we thought it’d be a suitable time to look at the greater parallels between sports and music, and how Human Nature compares their own line of work to the kind you find out on the field of competition.

Arena Amazônia

Arena Amazônia will host several of the 2014 World Cup matches. The members of Human Nature appreciate the similarities between athletes and singers.
Image source: Portal da Copa/Governo do Brasil via wikimedia.org

“I’m definitely a bit of a sports nut, myself,” says Phil Burton. “When I was a kid I played a whole bunch of sports– rugby, soccer, softball, cricket, golf. I’d give anything a try. Nowadays all I get time to play is golf, but I still love watching almost any sport. Having met a lot of athletes over the years, I’ve found that musicians and athletes always seem to want to switch places! I think we see the same passion and work ethic in each other’s careers– as well as the cheering fans, of course. There really are a lot of similarities.”

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Remembering a Mentor: Why Human Nature Will Always Be Indebted to the Great Jack Neary

Posted by on Friday, May 30th, 2014

One of the most touching and emotional performances in Human Nature’s career came not in a packed stadium or nationally televised concert, but on a somber day in the spring of 2000, when the young group sang “Danny Boy” at the funeral of one of their earliest mentors and champions.  That man was Jack Neary — a giant in Australian entertainment who spent the majority of his 84 years devoted to the promotion and success of homegrown Australian talent.

The great Jack Neary. Image from facebook.com

“We had a lot of support from a whole range of people in our very early years,” recalls Toby Allen, “but Jack [Neary] was definitely one of our greatest mentors. He had sung in a vocal group himself when he was younger, and he always praised us on having a very special sound when we sang together. He was really instrumental in filling us with the confidence to look for new and exciting inspirations.”

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Eastbound & Motown: A Look at Human Nature’s Summer Tour Stops

Posted by on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

As it turns out, Human Nature’s well-earned reward for surpassing the milestone of 1,000 shows in Las Vegas is also going to be quite the prize for the band’s fans on the other side of the USA. That’s right, the boys are hitting the road again, with a slate of nine special “Motown Show” concerts, set for the dates of August 6 – 17. The mini-tour will hop along the East Coast, with stops in Waterbury, Connecticut; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Boston, Massachusetts; and the group’s very first stateside stomping grounds– Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Human Nature performs

Look out, East Coast! Human Nature is headed your way.
Image source: Flickr user jeaneeem

If you’re an East Coaster determined to catch Human Nature on this rare migration into your neck of the woods, the only question might be, which night should it be? Yes, the nearest geographical option is generally the easiest choice. But each venue on this tour has something special to offer and could prove well worth a journey to see your favorite Aussie crooners in a completely unique environment. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the lucky hosts of the Human Nature Summer Tour 2014!

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“That’s When I Knew”: Human Nature Discuss the Earliest Moments that Inspired Them to Be Performers

Posted by on Monday, April 21st, 2014

Billy Joel once said that seeing the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was “the single biggest moment that I can remember being galvanized into wanting to be a musician for life.” Nancy Wilson of Heart described the very same event as “the moment Ann and I heard the call to become rock musicians.” And Tom Petty remembers that 1964 telecast as the equivalent “of going from black-and-white to color. You just knew it, sitting in your living room, that everything around you was changing.”

The Beatles

This was the moment that changed music forever. Image from lakewoodtimes.net

Now it’s certainly possible that, with the benefit of a little nostalgia and historical context, a single moment in our lives can gradually elevate into the stuff of legend—transcending whatever the original experience may have felt like. But the fact remains, when you ask most successful musicians when they first realized they wanted to pursue music as a career, almost all of them have specific, very vivid memories from childhood that spring to mind.

For the gentlemen of Human Nature, one of those moments would not include the aforementioned Beatle Invasion, considering the mop tops had already long since broken up by the time our Australian crooners were old enough to ponder career choices. Nope, to gather the musical origin stories of our lads, we’ll need to travel out of the 1960s and into the vastly eclectic sonic landscape of the 1980s—their “formative years,” as it were.

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