Gig review: Elvana at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

Elvana
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It’s the kind of drunken idea that doesn’t usually get past next morning’s hangover: form a band that plays “Nirvana in the style of Elvis Aaron f****** Presley.”

Yet for Elvana - three men in pastel blue jackets and dickie bows and one late-period Elvis in white jumpsuit - it’s an idea that’s resulted in a sold out tour.

This is despite the quartet, who are from Disgraceland (aka Newcastle-upon-Tyne), not really living up to their description. Singer Elvis Kell happily confesses that he sometimes sounds “like Nicolas Cage or Samuel L Jackson having a seizure”. At no point does he sound like the king of rock ’n’ roll, with the band’s Ramones style cover of ‘All Shook Up’ being raucous if out of tune fun.

The front-man does nonetheless do a good approximation of Kurt Cobain; his glass-gargling vocals on ‘School’ being almost as visceral as the original if you close your eyes for a second. The rest of the band are also a convincingly solid Nirvana tribute act, with Rob Novoselic’s bass line on ‘Lithium’ being particularly thrilling during the track’s breakdown.

Indeed, it’s the ‘twist’ on the tribute that’s most problematic. Inserting a snippet of ‘Viva Las Vegas’ into ‘Breed’ works surprisingly well, as does adding a scuzzed up version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’’s famous introduction to ‘In Bloom’.

The decision to turn ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ – a song about abortion – into light entertainment, however, is rather uncomfortable.

‘Rape Me’ likewise makes uneasy listening when it segues an anti-rape sentiment with ‘Love Me Tender’ while sections of the audience mindlessly sing back the title. This seems a million miles away from the spirit of Cobain, who championed feminism and LGBT rights long before they became mainstream concerns.

Despite these occasional lapses in taste Elvana provide a welcome reminder of just how powerful Nirvana were and, given many people in the audience weren’t even born when Cobain died, offer the best chance of getting close to the band that’s available.

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