Friday, October 29, 2010

Elvis and virtually no Suspicious Minds by Ivor Casey

ELVIS Presley's career has remained strong for almost 50 years, despite him being dead for over half this time. His long-lasting stance in the business is something no other singer has matched and that has been proven with 'Elvis: The Concert'. Presley was an influence on major Irish musicians. His genealogy can be traced to Ireland. However, he never performed one concert here. In fact, he never performed outside the US, other than a few shows in Canada. That was up until Elvis's estate came up with the next best thing.

The show has played four times in Ireland since 2000, and while the production format has not changed, the spectacular atmosphere remains. 'The Concert' reunites Presley's original 1970s musicians, the TCB Band, to perform live to his recorded voice. Spectators are also able to gaze at several enormous screens with footage of Elvis from 1968 to 1973, singing each of the selected songs. The concept of it being a virtual reality show has generated much suspicion over its quality. Some cynics have laughed at the idea of the main star not being present and it certainly is the estate's latest massive exploitation of its product, who once was a living, breathing and generous man. Despite the commercial aspects of Wednesday's production, the most important area was the music.

The legacy of the show has been mis-interpreted by many people who have not seen it, suggesting that it is like going to the cinema. However, what is essential to point out is that Presley's musicians are extraordinarily talented. While Elvis is the centre of attention, the performers could not be discredited. Other than the previously recorded vocals and footage, this show is every bit of a live concert. From the uplifting blues riff of James Burton on lead guitar to the heart pounding drum beat of Ronnie Tutt, songs of every genre are covered. Also performing are Jerry Scheff on bass guitar and Glen Hardin on piano, while 'The Sweet Inspirations' and 'The Stamps' add in their exquisite harmony.

The audience's response was ecstatic, due to pulse-racing covers of Presley's classic 1950s hits, but the highlights were the superb versions of Suspicious Minds and How Great Thou Art. Admirers get to experience how dramatic Elvis's 1970s concerts were and he was again introduced to a new generation, as the audience age ranged from seven to 70. The 1970s in Presley's life have become infamous for his excessive use of prescribed medication due to gruelling concert schedules and emotional problems, but at the start of this decade there was a phenomenal performer who stunned his audiences. He never failed to convey passion, heart and a deep down love for the music he performed, and that was highlighted in 'Elvis: The Concert'.

- Ivor Casey.

Ivor Casey is currently writing a book on Elvis Presley and Ireland.
(Ammended from article which first appeared in The Sunday Independent, 1 June 2003)

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