I’m going to confess to something here – I’m not really fan of a tribute act. I know it sounds a bit like music snobbery but I find it weird that you’d live your life pretending to be someone else. It’s like fake Gucci – why bother? Just buy a nice handbag within your budget from Eva Lucia and forget about a lying label.
Now, I’m perfectly aware this is my own little oddball thing and that plenty of people get great enjoyment out of a ‘designer’ bargain and a well-tuned Not Rod Stewart. So, convinced I must be missing out on something I happily agreed to join my friend for a Fawlty Towers Tribute last year and what do you know…? I had a proper, laugh-out loud hoot of a night!
A Duran Duran Tribute at the Civvie Club for Kirstin’s Hen Do in April was equally fun (although it was fuelled by tequila and a very drunk bride-to-be) but it was the Songs of Dolly at Southern Fried that really opened my eyes to what a good tribute night could do… It could lay tribute. It didn’t have to be a grown man pretending to be someone he’s not and taking the whole thing embarrassingly seriously. It could just be a great singer, covering songs and reminding the audience why their chosen act became so damn huge that he or she deserved to be duplicated!
And so, when I saw the The Absolute Elvis Show advertised at Horsecross I called my wee sis and talked her into a night on the town. I had no idea what to expect and there was a little bit of old Nicki silently cringing at the thought of this man who actually, in the words of the great Kirsty McColl, thinks he’s Elvis.
I knew from the event listing on Small City that our Elvis for the evening, a man called Johnny Lee Memphis, had won the title of World Champion at the Elvis World Cup in 2010. I’ll say that again… The Elvis World Cup! I’m relaying this golden nugget of info to my Sister when a leather clad man strutted onto stage singing, backed up by the Memphis Belles. The audience, which incidentally filled the Concert Hall, went wild and a huge cheer rocked and rolled its way around the room. This guy was GOOD!
A bit of a medley kicked us off and after five hip-thrusting, arm-circling minutes Johnny shook himself down and addressed his fans.
“Thank-you very much. I don’t always talk like this you know… I’m from all the way over in Stirling.”
And it turned out that Scottish Elvis not only owned the room with his incredible vocal range, stage presence and uncanny likeness to The King, he did it all with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek and as much humour as there was singing.
“Let me just get into the stance here…”
“So, I’d like to sing you a little song from 1973, which was recorded a year before I was born.”
“I’ll be having a little break in a minute… Change into something warmer…”
At this point he is top to toe in black leather and dancing under what felt like a million stage lights. I was hot looking at him… although that might have been the Elvis/Johnny Fever gripping me!
Tracey and I were singing, clapping, dancing, whooping and genuinely wishing we’d been born two decades earlier so we could’ve revelled in the full on Elvis Love. What was clear though, was that Johnny Lee had his own fan base, with lines and lines of women along the front of the stage patiently waiting for a silk scarf and a wink from the man himself. He sung Happy Birthday to an eight year old girl, kissed grannies, boys and screaming middle aged women and filled the room with an incredible, almost tangible, feel-good vibe.
All the favourites were there, Hunka Hunka Burning Love, Never Been to Spain, Steamroller, In The Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, Proud Mary and of course, American Trilogy as his encore. At one point he had the lights go up so we could get on our feet and dance without the health and safety guy having a stroke!
We loved it – every single minute of it. The singing was sensational, the moves were hot, the band was fabulous, the laughs were loud, the Memphis Belles were beautiful and Johnny Lee Memphis was an entertainer of huge talent.
As we wound our way out, there was a chorus of ‘That was brilliant’ filling the air and a stampede of both die-hard groupies and newly converted fans making there was to the front for a pic with their favourite Elvis Tribute man, Mr Johnny Lee Memphis.
Of course, Tracey and I were there in the queue (this is her with her Elvis Mad Pal, Jenny!), wondering if my Mum would babysit her twins so we could hatch a trip to Graceland! And that people, is the power of a great tribute act. They don’t steal the original spotlight from their hero, they only make you love them more.
PS Im already signed up for Janis Joplin on 4th September and know that if you see me in Gucci it is WAY out of my budget!
The annual March Into Pitlochry brings 20 bands to Highland Perthshire, with ska kings Bombskare and Indie outfit Attic Lights topping the bill.