Almost Elvis stokes embers in the hearts of Vilar audiences
BEAVER CREEK – An older woman in the front row, who could dance like a teenager, wanted some chest sweat on the scarf given to her by the almost Elvis.It was almost like old times, or so say those who saw the real Elvis perform live. The Mike Albert and the Big “E” Band show at the Vilar Center Sunday started with curtains opening to the theme song for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This is how Elvis always started his shows, so I’m told.Then a man wearing sparkly white flares, white boots and an extravagant white top with a gaping V chest walked onto the stage, joining his six-piece band, which included two female backing vocalists, a bass player with J.D. Sumner-like vocal accompaniment, a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist. There was no question who it was the black hair and side burns, the big, tinted shades, the convulsing leg …A few women let out screams when the Elvis-like figure took the stage. He kicked right into “C.C. Rider,” bowing the microphone left and right and allowing his jeweled fingers to quiver along with the rhythm. In a matter of minutes, he was playing along on air guitar and doing karate kicks.The crowd appeared to wait a couple of songs before a complete trust set in, and when it became clear that this almost Elvis was a respectful disciple of the King, voices began calling out requests and hands began reaching out to touch the impersonator.One had to wonder how similar this was to the real thing. Certainly those baby boomers in the audience about 90 percent of the whole were amply provided with a tuneful stroll down memory lane.Before the performance, Albert pointed out that there were things that the real Elvis could do that impersonators couldn’t get away with like lying down on his back on stage while wailing out ballads and passionately kissing women in the front row.The real thing or not, clearly some women were wanting to relive their 30-year-old fantasies with this convincing vessel of their hero.Albert shuffled into the audience on a number of tunes, something the real Elvis wasn’t allowed in his hey day without the miracle of wireless microphones. The first woman to whom he sang didn’t appear to share Albert’s take on not getting too carried away with Elvis behavior, and when Albert went to give her a peck on the cheek, they ended up locking lips, after which Albert looked to the ceiling and said in a distinctive Tennessee (although he’s from Ohio) drawl, “Thank you, Elvis.” Then he patted the woman’s male companion on the shoulder and in the same sexy voice slurred out, “It’s OK, man. It’s only a show.”With chest hair exposed and cheeks slightly on the sag, Albert admittedly represents “the older Elvis,” but certainly bore an obvious likeness, or at least from the viewpoint of Vilar Center aisle P.Just about everyone knew the word of each tune verbatim, and sang along loyally, even when Albert launched into “Hound Dog” as if it were a show tune. The first couple of verses were only a joke, one of many Albert both planned and improvised throughout the show, much to everyone’s amusement. And the original version of one of Elvis’ most rocking tunes quickly emerged.My mother, who saw Elvis perform once in Denver a few years before his death in 1977, then, much to her lasting devastation, lost tickets to see him a second time in Las Vegas, leaned over before the intermission and informed me that the almost Elvis wasn’t wearing silk scarves around his neck.”He’s supposed to wipe his sweat off with them and throw them into the audience,” my mom told me.Sure enough, in the second act, Albert had found a stage hand to place scarves individually around his neck. Albert handed out each to a chosen audience member; the woman whom he accidentally kissed on the mouth, a young girl who came to dance on stage with him, a woman who reached off the balcony wanting to touch him, a guy named Jim and the older woman in the front row who strutted to and fro with Albert during the first act. Albert came back to this woman to deliver a scarf in the second half of the show, and paused when she didn’t accept it immediately.The woman said something to Albert, and, looking a little embarrassed, he answered, “Well, OK,” and plunged the scarf into his shirt to soak up some sweat. The place erupted in laughter.Albert covered most of the big tunes “Love Me Tender,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” He also did some of the King’s lesser-known gospel tunes.Sixteen years of Elvis impersonating clearly made for a refined delivery, minus a bit of sucking air in the altitude. Albert noted that the King’s hits never die. One has to wonder what a concert would be like if Elvis himself hadn’t. One can envision a graying, pompadoured 72-year-old throwing his pelvis around for adoring audiences across the globe. Maybe the one and only is lucky to have an endless line of new generations stepping in to fill the part. For those wanting to keep the dream alive, the Turntable restaurant in Minturn is hosting another Elvis tribute show at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for its Spring Fling fifties celebration. Festivities also include a Hoola Hoop contest, plenty of cheeseburgers and Cherry Coke. For more information, call the Turntable at 827-4164.Vail, Colorado
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