Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Elvis Presley in Concert

Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Elvis Presley in Concert

Article excerpt

Elvis Aron Presley departed this world on 16 August, 1977. Even if you delight in conspiracy theories and believe the film Elvis Found Alive was a documentary, he is currently unavailable for personal appearances. So his presence at the O2 Arena and five other UK cities in November was confined to giant screens. Actually present on the stage beneath was the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra under conductor Robin Smith plus a rhythm section and three backing singers.

It's not the first time something like this has been done -- former members of Presley's band took a similar show around the world and it worked surprisingly well. A friend suggested that the symphonic version would be like 'a whole orchestra turning up to do karaoke' and I must confess I had my own doubts, too.

I needn't have worried. In big arenas you tend to watch the screens anyway, so before too long Elvis at the O2 felt like any other large-scale concert except for the lack of a faraway figure singing under the spotlight. Instead, the human (if slightly remodelled) face of the show belonged to Priscilla Presley, who divorced Elvis in 1973 but stepped in after he died and turned his $1 million estate into a $100 million empire.

She introduced the orchestra wearing a black Morticia Addams-style gown and reappeared later as a candy-striped southern belle, gliding into the audience for meet-and-greet moments that were beamed up on screen. Priscilla, lest we forget, was an excellent actress in Dallas and the Naked Gun films and is now a regular on the UK panto circuit. She was relaxed and natural with the audience, which resembled a pollster's perfect sample of mild-mannered Middle England.

This orchestral tour (with more dates to come in Europe and Australia) follows the release of two albums by Elvis with the Royal Philharmonic. Both sailed effortlessly to the top of the UK charts, snatching back (from Madonna) Presley's lost crown as the solo artist with the most No. 1 albums. There's a lot to like about them, too: the orchestral flourishes in 'Burning Love' bring to mind 'I Am The Walrus' and early ELO, while the stately new introduction to 'Love Me Tender' could almost be Elgar. …

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