Elvis Has Left The Grand (But he might return…)

On Monday 16 March, The Elvis Years played at the Blackpool Grand Theatre – a tour which has eighty dates during the year that would have been Elvis’s 80th birthday year. I should probably frontload this article by saying I love Elvis and therefore love an Elvis tribute act; for me there’s something cultish about the phenomena that surrounds The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll that is very appealing.

I love the gold lamé jackets, the big quiffs, the attempts to recreate the pelvic thrusts and the decision-making process that must take place when deciding to become an Elvis impersonator: Do you pitch yourself as the early boy-next-door-denim-clad trucker, the skin-tight black leather ‘68 comeback Elvis or the white jumpsuit-wearing 1970s Vegas King? Inevitably, most people admit their limitations and go for the latter!

Mario Kombou, who fronted this tribute, may well have been more suited to Elvis’s later era but all due respect to him and his multiple costume changes as he competently took us through the decades of Elvis’s career from the first recording at Sun Records through the GI Blues years via the Hawaii Hollywood era on to the comeback gig and an entertaining and rhinestone clad performance of Suspicious Minds, ending the night with that deep Southern favourite – dedicated to the man himself – An American Trilogy (or DixieLand).

His voice was superb and the renditions of each song perfectly crafted; he not only maintained the textured tones in song, he also managed to convey the warmth and humour of his personality during spoken moments too. There were jokes and interludes that were obviously well-observed versions of real interactions from old footage, however, this performer has so embodied the man himself that he was able to continue the ad-libbed exchanges with the audience to the point that it was unclear whether they realised this was not actually the real Elvis! By the end of the night, the whole crowd were on their feet and as he walked among us, giving out sweaty silk scarves to doe-eyed ladies, the lines of reality blurred brilliantly. Everybody was swept away by that unique phenomena that is still strong today; Elvis-mania, and for a cold Monday night in Blackpool, that kind of escapism is a beautiful thing.

The inclusion of original footage from the likes of the Ed Sullivan Show, the Frank Sinatra Show, his conscription haircut and uniform fittings plus photos of his family and early life helped us to connect with the period that we could expect next and ensured that this show felt like much more than a string of cover versions. The band and backing singers were also hugely accomplished and played up to the legend’s aura – helping to add to the assumed allure.

In a rare link to 2015, the show encouraged us all to like them on Twitter @TheElvisYears and to visit their Facebook page, to share pictures and comments and help them to return to Blackpool in a year’s time.

Should he have left out a couple of the numbers? Maybe. Perhaps a man of his years shouldn’t try to pull off the rock ‘n’ roll angst of Jailhouse Rock. But no man can combine the whole package of what were the looks, moves, personality and charisma of Elvis Presley – otherwise they would be the new Elvis! My only real disappointment from the night was that the audience were not echoing the lustre of the great man’s kitschness.  The lone observer of this tradition, who was surely the coolest kid on the block, was a four-year-old called Milo who wore a sequinned cape and jived in the aisles and in his seat all night and when quizzed about his favourite Elvis track clearly stated, “That’s alright Mamma.” This fills my heart with gladness for the perpetuation of tributes to the King and is reason enough to wish for this show’s return – now where is that gold sequinned jacket of mine…

Thank you very much!

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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

  • Show Comments (5)

  • Chris Duffield

    Milo says he had a great time, and wanted to tell you he’s only 3 and a half 🙂

    • Melanie Whitehead

      Haha – brilliant! He was a one-boy inspiration to all to remember that when watching the King, one should always pay style homage to him – next time I will join Milo in a more suitable outfit! Because after all -there are too few opportunities to dig out our sparkly capes and wear them in public so we should make the most of them!

  • barbara connolly

    great performance at Blackpool Mario brings back the majic that was ELVIS .. we were rocking in the aisles.. so was Milo, Mario was generous in encores … backing perormers were superb…it was a great night .hope Mario is back soon if he is dont miss the show.

  • paul banyard

    Brill Cape Milo had

    Ace show … One of best Elvis impersonating shows been too

  • Irene Grant

    It was a great birthday treat for my mum who has been a life long fan of Elvis. She really enjoyed the show as this was the closest she would ever be to her idol. Hope the show returns back to Blackpool next year as I know my mum will definitely be there. Thank you for making her day.

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