Where were you when Elvis Presley died? If you are a student, the chances are that you're probably not old enough to have an answer to that question.
For me, August 16th 1977 was a day of pain and humiliation. I was eight years' old and didn't really know who The King of Rock ' Roll was until the day I got stuck climbing up a tree in Greenbank Park, just off Smithdown Road. I'd cut my leg and, ignoring advice not to talk to strangers, I was forced to tearfully ask a passing grown-up to help me get down to safety.
The first man to walk by was in no mood to rescue me, however. "No way son," he said, looking 'All Shook Up'. "Elvis is dead, OK?" he added. With that solemn announcement he kept walking... and my fascination with Elvis began. That day, 33 years ago, would appear to have ended any future hopes of seeing Presley perform live in Liverpool, but a dream came true on Sunday night when Elvis rocked the Echo Arena.
The Elvis Presley Concert Tour 2010 offers a unique live experience, mixing “state-of-the-art” (i.e. giant) video screens of The King singing, backed up by a 16-piece orchestra and some of his original bandmates playing live in the arena.
The overall effect is unexpectedly thrilling and moving.
Semi-serious Elvis fans are already very familiar with the
highly acclaimed ‘1968 Comeback Special’ and ‘Aloha
From Hawaii’ TV performances, as well as the 1970 movie
‘That’s The Way It Is’, and these provide the bulk of the
footage shown up on screen.
There’s more than a touch of magic about seeing it in this
format though. The sight of Elvis, who never gave a single
concert outside North America in his lifetime, towering above
his band is spellbinding. So is the powerful voice that earned
him the right to be known as one of the men who invented
the rock n' roll genre.
The concert starts with a Google Earth journey on screen
zooming right in on the Echo Arena. ‘Elvis’ is then seen
prowling the corridors backstage, before his unmistakable
image is projected in all its glory, and a two-and-a-half-hour trawl through his incredible repertoire begins.
Even those who profess to know little about his music would probably recall the tune and some of the words to 50-year-old classics, such as ‘Heartbreak Hotel, ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Love Me Tender’. The Echo Arena was only roughly two thirds-full, with none of the upper tier seats sold, but those who bought tickets quite obviously loved the experience.
Naturally, the Elvis impersonators were out in force down by the Albert Dock. Full credit goes to the genius who took maximum advantage of watching The King bend down and kiss seemingly dozens of women in the original audience, as he casually strolled the aisles of the Echo Arena in a jumpsuit and wig doing exactly the same to willing volunteers.
Although Elvis was, of course, the undoubted star, it was a treat to see him performing alongside his faithful backing singers, 'The Sweet inspirations', guitarist James Burton, and pianist Glen D. Hardin up on screen, while the living and breathing musicians were still able to craft note-perfect versions of the same songs live on stage decades later.
The second half of the show got the crowd on its feet most frequently. Hits like ‘The Wonder of You’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ were greeted rapturously, and when ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ closed the show, more than a few of his Liverpool fans were in tears.
Even better than the real thing? Well, if you consider that Elvis would have been 75 by now if he had lived, it would be difficult to argue that seeing him sing today could eclipse watching him in his prime like this. How many other artists can hold thousands of fans enthralled and earn a huge standing ovation without actually being there?
When all is done, and the trademark tannoy announcement booms: “Elvis has left the building...” it’s almost possible to believe that everything you just saw was for real.
Long live The King, baby.
By John Mathews, Journalism Lecturer
More JMU Journalism reviews
The King sings 'live' on giant screens with a band & orchestra; YouTube: Elvis sings 'Polk Salad Annie'
Elvis sings 'The Wonder Of You' in Vegas