Sunday, March 02, 2008

Elvis is alive and well and singing in... Wimborne

Always the greatest Elvis fan in the world, I looked forward keenly to seeing Lee Memphis King perform at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne last Friday. I'd seen LMK on the BBC's 'World's Greatest Elvis' (he came third; he was robbed) last year and knew his voice and performance were good. But I didn't quite expect what we got.

The show deliberately 'tackled' three periods of Elvis' career. First, LMK took us through the early years, with stunningly accurate vocals. Then, a quick change of costume into black leathers and a re-creation of the '68 Comeback Special. When the interval came I turned to Elaine and said 'His voice is just perfect for that era' - and it had been, with 'One night with you' and other classics sounding as near to Elvis as I could imagine.

But then, after the interval, the Las Vegas years. LMK was in a red jump suit, not the usual white. Still accurate though; white was not Elvis' only colour. He'd lost some weight, I thought, since the TV competition - or maybe it's just that TV famously adds ten pounds. At any rate, he looked good, 'quite like' the original. Then he began to sing.

I know what Elvis sounds like; I've been listening to him for 35 years. He sounds like Lee Memphis King. (Odd name, by the way; but I guess just 'Lee King' would suggest that water was running out somewhere...) He sang 'My Way' exactly as Elvis did: a deep, rich, Southern voice that suits the song far more than Sinatra's nasal New Jersey twang ever could. When he sang - at the end, as always - 'Can't help falling in love', he could have been miming to the King himself (but he wasn't; it was live).

But the highlight of the show - as so often in the Vegas years - was 'Suspicious Minds'. The atmosphere had been growing; the sense of being at 'an event' had mounted. Inevitably, large numbers took to the aisles, just to get closer to the stage. Just as Elvis had, LMK reached down, shook hands - but didn't kiss anyone - and the vocals never faltered. Never: perfect.

After thirty years, I've begun to suspect that Elvis is probably dead... and if he isn't, he's 73 years old, so I'll never get to see him live and in his prime. But that's OK; there are videos of his classic concerts, and - for live performances - there's Lee Memphis King to Take Care of Business.