the loud bassoon concert scene

Elvis – The Concert @ Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, IL, USA
29 August 1998

Part concert, part laser light show, part revival meeting, "Elvis – The Concert" was a spectacle only the 90s could have produced. Essentially recreating a typical early 70s Elvis show, this tour has the distinction of being perhaps the only time a major artist has performed in many cites twenty years posthumous.

On stage, Elvis's original backing band (The TCB band) is joined by his original backing singers (The Sweet Inspirations and the Jordannaires) along with many members of his original orchestra – while a twenty-five foot projection screen flanked by two slightly smaller screens broadcasts live footage of Elvis.

Through a bit of electronic trickery, they were able to isolate Elvis's vocal track from the original footage so that the band can play live, with Elvis piped in through the sound system. Essentially, this is an Elvis concert at which Elvis himself is not physically on stage.

The resulting experience was nowhere near as cheesy as it should have been, and in fact was pretty awe-inspiring at times. The concert footage was chosen so that Elvis is seen in the best possible light – older but not fat and yucky, and for the most part, not half-assing his vocals.

And the jumpsuits were incredible. We had a bit of disagreement in my entourage as to which jumpsuit was the most impressive – I chose the light blue one coupled with the truly big hair, while others opted for the trimmer white one with the open chest and large belt – but what mattered most here was that the fans got a feel for what Elvis was like on stage. Not Elvis, "but an incredible simulation" … Elvismania.

Aside from seeing Elvis on screen, the concert provided great thrills in seeing Elvis's band playing synced up to footage of themselves twenty-five years ago, when they all had a lot more hair and a lot less belly. Surprisingly, their clothes looked mostly better in the 70s footage.

But they could still play like a mutherfucker, especially James Burton on guitar and the fat guy on drums. Personally, I enjoyed seeing Stax legends the Sweet Inspirations on stage, still belting it out. The great thing is, everyone involved seemed to be genuinely loving it – it totally didn't come off like a big cash-in.

So how was the King? Awesome, blending a somewhat crazy sense of humor with the occasional straightforwardness. Consummate showman. Made Sinatra look like my grandpa (aside from my grandpa already sort of looking like Sinatra). Highlights included the expected favorites ("Suspicious Minds," "In the Ghetto," "Can't Help Falling in Love") and an "American Trilogy" that almost had the whole place weeping.

Interspersed were clips of Elvis hamming it up, singing into six microphones simultaneously, and kissing thirty women in the space of one song, while continuing to sing. Hilarious stuff.

An added bonus was seeing the would-be Elvises in the crowd clearly enjoying themselves, especially the one guy right in front of us who watched the event as though he were proud of it. Meanwhile, a couple of gospel interludes paid tribute to the King in what could only be described as an argument for beatification.

This tour is a step toward Elvis becoming a religion, and judging from the thousands of (mostly female) audience members, he's got a big head start. Christ didn't have so many ho's in the beginning!

An evening well spent. A bit surreal, but with a little suspension of disbelief, you were watching Elvis. I didn't even have to put on my irony goggles to enjoy it. It's time I put those things away anyway. Nah.

Review by Bob Fortuna