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Elvis Tribute Artist World Tour. Embassy Theatre, Skegness. 15 May 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

Forty five years ago, I was in bed asleep when my mother came in visibly shocked. She woke my brother and I, to tell us that Elvis had died. I wasn't really a fan, but I knew she was. Our family possessed a number of early 78 rpms of Elvis including Heartbreak Hotel and Teddy Bear. My mother told me stories of my father in his youth, stood in front of a mirror trying to move like Elvis. As the news broke, and I had greater exposure to Elvis's career, I began to understand the appeal of the first global superstar of modern music. I became a fan. By 1978, I was allowed to travel to London with my friend's family to watch Elvis the Musical at the Astoria Theatre which starred Shakin' Stevens, and I was hooked.

44 years later, I was sat at the Embassy Theatre in Skegness enjoying a sold-out concert featuring three award-winning Elvis tribute artists. The stage was set with modern LED lighting and the band, The Ambassadors from the USA, and the vocal harmony group - The Passionettes - took their place ready to rock the house. And rock it, they did. What amazing backing they provided to the three artists who were to bring three ages of Elvis to the stage this evening. Two of the performers hail from the USA, and one from the UK.

Originally, the show boasted three American Elvis tributes but sadly Cody Ray Slaughter, a remarkable performer with astonishing resemblance to the young Elvis, has been struck by a serious illness and has ended his tour prematurely. Instead, we were treated to a homegrown tribute in Ben Thompson.

Thompson, whilst only bearing a passing physical resemblance to Elvis in his youth, nevertheless managed to convey the sheer joy and excitement of Elvis in his early years. Dressed in a black shirt and trousers, with a powder blue jacket and black and white loafers, he shook and jumped around like the original Hillbilly Cat just as he was becoming Elvis the product rather than Elvis the originator.

This was the red hot and raw Elvis, whose simplest shudder or twitched eyebrow could send girls into paroxysms of weeping and sexual excitement. Elvis never failed to move when the music began and the girls loved him all the more. Thompson is a great mover with swivelling hips and the ability to work the enormous stage at the Embassy better than most I have seen there in recent months. He brings a cocky confidence which he has earned by winning the UKs Ultimate Elvis tribute,, A title he richly deserves. It is also great to note that not every impersonator chooses to focus on Vegas Elvis, a period I always found less interesting personally.

He opened with Shake Rattle and Roll, a song which back in the day, Elvis notoriously performed on the Dorcey Show and caused controversy as his movements would henceforth only be broadcast from the waist up out of a desire for moral decency. We were given a glimpse in the 1956 vintage King here. Thompson as the hip-swinging, lip-curling, original rocker-era Elvis, gave a performance that the audience adored, and when he announced his final number the audience audibly sighed with disappointment, even though the show itself was nowehere near its conclusion and the appreciation of his efforts visibly moved Thompson.

I enjoyed many numbers that he performed here but my favourite was possibly A Big Hunk of Love.The latter part of Thompson's set covered Elvis's movie hit such as Bossa Nova Baby and the crowd-pleasing Viva Las Vegas, though he missed a trick by not changing the lyrics at least once to Viva Skeg Vegas for the night...

As Ben Thompson left the stage, his replacement appeared clad in black leather and looking every inch the king of the 1968 TV Comeback Special. This was Dean Z. His physical resemblance to Elvis at that point in his career is astonishing, and of the three artists appearing tonight, he was easily the most convincing lookalike. And he gave an absolutely top-notch performance befitting the 2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute World Champion.

He strode across the stage like a panther giving us hit after hit and conjuring up images of the original in every nuanced move. This consumate performance was rewarded by swarms of female fans flocking to the stage to grab a kiss from a man playing Elvis but whose own world would be so very different were it not for the "Tupelo Mississppi Flash".

Dean Z clearly has his own set of fans and followers who knew precisely what to expect and despite the recnt pandemic were prepared to kiss, and be kissed by, this man.

He gave us more hits including Heartbreak Hotel and A Little Less Conversation along with Love Me Tender and the almighty If I can Dream that concluded the TV Comeback Special in '68. Of the three performers, Dean Z was the most impressive for me. His physical resemblance to Elvis, and vocal prowess was astonishing and his sex appeal was clear even to me as a heterosexual male.

The final Elvis of the night was billed as the original winner of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute World Championship and the BBC's "World's Greatest Elvis" voted for by the public - Shawn Klush.

Klush does not look like Elvis, I want to get that out there at the outset. But he does have a voice to envy. He is a master of the huge Elvis ballads, and he handled American Trilogy masterfully. Klush concetrated on the concert years, as they called them in the show but everyone else would know it as "White Jumpsuit Elvis". The Ambassadors really picked up the pace with this incarnation of the King, and more than did his music justice and The Passionettes were more than worthy stand-ins for Elvis's Sweet Inspirations of the Vegas show years.

We got Polk Salad Annie and CC Rider ,as fans rushed the stage in an unexpected (by me) clamour to receive one of Klush's orange scarves - as if receiving a gift from Elvis himself. I lost track of how many scarves must have been given out to the appreciative women (and the occasional man) in the audience.

Though I preferred the middle era Elvis portrayed here, I know many felt that Klush stole the show with his booming vocal and the confidence of a showman at the height of his powers. I heard them say so as they exited the theatre. Everyone has tehir favourite Ellvis I guess. I would have loved to see an authentic Sun Records Hillybilly Cat Elvis breaking ground but alas we did not this evening. So '68 Comeback Special did it for me instead.

The Elvis tribute bandwagon continues to roll on because fans want to remember their idol and everyone who can give a passing impression of the man as they sing and entertain the audiences remind us of what we lost in August 1977. The World's greatest rock n roll superstar ELvis Aaron Presley. Many can do him justice and pay him tribute, but I am sure that they all agree, none can replace him. He was and is one f the greatest entertainers the Word has known. A man who defined an era. I look forward to seeing further tributes over the coming months to see how they compare and which version of Elvis they choose to present. Watch this space if you are even remotely interested in what I have to say on the subject.

Andy Evans 16 May 2022

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