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Gig review: Elvis In Concert at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Footage from Elvis Presley's 68 Comeback Special featured in the show at First Direct Arena.
Footage from Elvis Presley's 68 Comeback Special featured in the show at First Direct Arena.
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Archie is five years old today. He wears his white Elvis flare-leg jump-suit with stand-up collar, aviator shades, black Elvis wig and cape.

When Pricilla in flowing black evening-gown does her post-intermission audience walk-around – ‘hello’ to Natasha and ‘hello’ to Dave from Nott-ing-haam, she zeroes in on little Archie, crouches down with microphone and coaxes him into singing the first lines of Suspicious Minds. The audience loves it. Pricilla loves it.

Welcome to the biggest video juke-box in Leeds. When the king starts doing, it’s as good as done. Yes, he sometimes made poor career choices. His song-selection could be erratic. Bridge Over Trouble Water and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me should have been left to their original performers. But Elvis always had the gravitational charisma-attraction of a super-massive black hole. And even 40 years dead he can still suspend disbelief, not only fill this arena to capacity, but bring the audience to its feet in worshipful adoration.

“We’re gonna do all the songs you wanna hear,” promises an immaculately-coiffed Elvis in white glitter jump-suit. But what is it we’re actually applauding? Every stadium act from Lady Gaga to the regenerated Queen use massive wrap-around screens, and an arc of musicians, focusing on the performer up-front. Tonight we get the Elvis-on-screen, largely taken from the black-leather 1968 TV Comeback Special, the lei-garlanded Aloha From Hawaii concert, and Las Vegas casino nights. We get the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra with a huge harp stage-left, guitars stage-right and a conductor in frock-coat at the centre. Plus two hours of unrelenting classic hits. But no actual performer.

Instead, utilising unique technology, on-screen we see Elvis emoting You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling with his Sweet Inspirations group adding the ‘Baby Baby Baby’ vocal back-up, but it’s the trio on-stage we hear. For the The Wonder Of You instrumental break Elvis says “Play the song, James”, but it’s not his wonderful guitarist James Burton we hear, but the onstage Royal Philharmonic guitarist. A studio mix-trickery that’s already produced three best-selling CDs, winning a three-cornered fight against Michael Bublé and Robbie Williams for last-season’s No.1 album slot.

“Than’ you very much,” says Elvis.

Archie will remember this birthday for the rest of his life.

And what other deceased celebrity could possibly achieve this scale of spectacle? Well… actually, Roy Orbison’s hologram tour is here next April!