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January 18, 2019

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Q+A, Part 1: Clint Holmes discusses his show at Palazzo opening July 16

Nevada Sesquicentennial All-Star Concert

Tom Donoghue /

Clint Holmes performs during the Nevada Sesquicentennial All-Star Concert on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas.

‘Georgia on My Mind’ at Venetian

Singers Nnenna Freelon, Clint Holmes and a Take 6 member perform as The Venetian Las Vegas announces the engagement of Launch slideshow »

Clint Holmes at Capitol Records

Clint Holmes and members of the Count Basie Orchestra record an upcoming album in Studio A, aka the “Grammy Studio,” at Capitol Records on Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Los Angeles.
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Clint Holmes ‘To Ella With Love’ at the Hollywood Bowl

Clint Holmes and friends rehearse for “To Ella With Love” at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Los Angeles.

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Ask Clint Holmes to ponder his new residency at Palazzo starting July 16, and he describes it as “exciting, frightening and fulfilling — all at once.”

It’s not that Clint has never performed on the Strip before. He had a seven-year run at Harrah’s before his four-year stint at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center. Add the acclaim he received performing for a year at Carlyle Cafe in New York filling the shoes of the late Bobby Short, and this is a well-seasoned performer.

Is returning to the Strip with a brand new, transformed showroom at Palazzo a daunting task?

The room is amazing. It’s a one-of-a-kind design. We want to take advantage of that, so there’s a lot going through my mind right now as we get ready for this. Entertainment-wise, we have to separate ourselves from the other musical shows in town, so we’re pouring through material of shows I’ve done on the Strip.

This will be the most contemporary, and by that it means material from James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel right up to the present. I’m not going further back than them. Those people are the classic contemporary people. And today we have greats like John Legend, Adele, wonderful contemporary artists. That’s going to be a big difference in the show.

At Cabaret Jazz, I had the opportunity to explore so many singers from yesterday, so many different kinds of music. Smith Center President Myron Martin and I decided when I started there was because we were doing shows so often, and people would be hopefully coming back to see them often, we’d have to change the show all the time.

It was a challenge; it was also a great thing because I went through a lot and found some great material. That will be the flow of this new show, but Palazzo doesn’t expect me to do the traditional standards of Sammy Davis Jr. or Frank Sinatra.

There’s a possibility that I would. You know, Robin, I have great respect for the artists who came before me that I learned from, so there’s a possibility of something of a bit of a tribute, but it would just be a moment in the show. It’s certainly not what the show is, what the show is about. Whenever I do a show, I try to build a — if not a specific story, certainly a flow and a reason for every song in the show.

So when the audience leaves, they go with not just a series of songs, so, if in the flow I can find a way to tribute one of my heroes, I will do it. But certainly the show is not about Sinatra. It’s not about the Great American Songbook.

The good news is there are still great songs being written. People tend to say they don’t write them like they used to, and my response is they’re not supposed to, and if you really listen, there are a lot of songs, very contemporary songs that I don’t like, that I just don’t relate to. But there are some great artists in music now, and that’s where we’re going to be, plus some of my original music in it.

When I started the seven-year residency at Harrah’s, one of my favorite stories is when I got the deal and we had a few months before we opened, and I loved to see Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns perform, and my manager said, “That’s your band.” And I said, “That’s 12 pieces, I can’t afford 12 pieces.”

And he said, “You can’t afford not to have 12 pieces because if you want to make a mark in this town, it’s going to have to be about more than the way you sing. It’s going to have to be the total package, the energy, the musicality, the excitement.” I hired Santa Fe, and turns out he was right.

A huge part of my success there was the fact that people love that band, the music was so powerful and energized that it became that thing that people went out and talked about it. It was a great lesson to learn in a town like this.

You really do have to find ways to separate yourself from all the people on the Strip doing amazing shows. Some of them are superstars like Lionel Richie and Celine Dion, so you literally have to find your way.

For me it’s always going to be about the music. I leaned that at Harrah’s. It was the same at Cabaret Jazz and performing in New York, a slightly different animal. They look for different things in the shows, but I learned that people do get it when they’re really listening to the lyrics of the songs you sing.

That’s why we’re calling the show “Between The Lines.” It’s like having a conversation with somebody and reading their eyes. It may tell you something that their words are not saying. You get the body language, too. A song is like that, too. A song can have meaning, sometimes they’re just fun, but there’s always something in there to find, and I learned that performing in New York.

You have to go a little bit deeper, you have to be a bit more theatrical, you have to find the balance between the two. So having the opportunity to take those two lessons and do four years here at Cabaret Jazz, I had the freedom to explore all of it. Myron and the people there gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted. All those lessons learned bring me to this point and the new Palazzo show.

Are you now ready for the new Strip again?

I believe so, absolutely, and entertainment has changed since I was last on the Strip. I think that the huge production shows will always have a place, but I got the feeling that we got a little bit saturated with the huge productions, and people will always want personality entertainment. That’s how the town was built.

With the advent of some of the artists, and include in that J.Lo, Celine, Britney Spears and Lionel Richie, that’s what I do. A one-performance production. I have a feeling it’s turning back around a bit. The way that we used to spend with Sinatra or Robert Goulet or Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme where you walked out really entertained by somebody special. I think there’s an appetite for that. The audience wants intimacy.

And with this theater having 550, 560 seats, it’s very similar to what Harrah’s had. It’s the right room for what I do because it is intimate, and it needs to be. It’s also big enough for the band to play, and for it to be exciting, for the music to be hot, it’s all that, all the things I’ve learned.

I played the big rooms like Carnegie Hall. I’ve played symphonies, and I’ve played Carlyle, which is just 90 seats. You really do learn what it is that you do that works for all of those rooms, and for me my show is personal. I don’t talk about myself, but this will be personal, intimate.

You’re well along in the preparation and production in the show, you’ve hired your band, you’ve hired your backup singer, you’ve got the package together, you’re ready to rock?

We’re certainly well on our way. We have identified much of the material where the musical director is doing the arrangements. We work every day. I give him my thoughts, my ideas, and we’ll go over it and massage it and get it to the place that we think it’s going to work.

This week we should have the show completed so that we can sit down with the rest of the team, with the choreographer, the lighting people, and make sure that we’re all on the same page and feel good about the material before we go into rehearsals.

* * *

Check back next week for Part 2 of our chat with Clint that includes his co-producer, Ken Henderson.

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at

Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at

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