Monday, August 16, 2010

ASF: Scot Bruce -- "Elvis: The Early Years"

Thirty-three years to the day of Elvis Presley's untimely death, Scot Bruce brought to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival a very special concert -- "Elvis: The Early Years". There will be another concert tomorrow night at 7:30.

Looking so much like "the King" in his prime, and dressed in a gold lame jacket for the first act and skin-tight black leather for the second, Mr. Bruce's efforts were not so much a slavish impersonation [though there were plenty of mannerisms, poses, and gyrations in his performance], but rather a sincere tribute to a man who still brings so much joy to millions of people around the world through his music.

Performing almost non-stop for two hours including a brief intermission, he and his able instrumental quartet gave us thirty songs out of the over-700 Elvis recorded; and the sold-out audience cheered, sang along, and danced in the aisles throughout. Every song was familiar, and every one received grateful and hearty applause.

Mr. Bruce's interpretations were spot-on conjurings of Elvis in his heyday; starting with "Blue Suede Shoes" and "All Shook Up", he had the audience on his side immediately, and kept the upbeat quality and the volume up for most of the evening, often drowning out the lyrics, and only slowing down occasionally with "Love Me Tender", "Peace in the Valley" and "Cryin' in the Chapel".

And he "played" the audience by moving down to the footlights to make eye contact with the many admirers [mostly female] in the first few rows, accepting Teddy Bears and "articles of clothing" from them with good grace, and calling out his thanks to Montgomery and to ASF.

So many audience favorites came in quick succession: "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don't Be Cruel", "Devil in Disguise", "Hunk of Burnin' Love", "Suspicious Minds", "King Creole", "Tutti Frutti", and "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" [from the film Blue Hawaii], and ending with "Hound Dog" cheers after cheers.

Mr. Bruce's energy is amazing. The musicianship of the entire group is first rate,and each was featured on a couple of numbers to showcase their significant talents.

Of course, the concert could not end without an encore, a medley of patriotic songs and "All My Trials", concluding with a resounding version of "Jailhouse Rock", with people on their feet by the end.

For an all-too-brief time, Elvis lived again.