Fans of Elvis Presley were treated to a larger-than-life video projection of the legendary singer at a three-hour multi-media extravaganza at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday night - August 21, 2004 at 8pm.
The gig, titled Elvis - The Concert, was initially put together in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1997 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Presley's death. It grew to become a hit touring show that has played to audiences in the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia, including several sell-outs at London's famed Wembley Arena.
The show incorporates footage of Presley culled mainly from three of his best live concerts. The images are beamed on a 6m-tall by 4.5m-wide screen. Only Presley's vocals are heard, leaving the musical instrumentation to the 16 live performers on stage.
The concert features material shot for the MGM concert films Elvis, That's the Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972), as well as the historic 1973 global TV special Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite. The accompanying live band at the Indoor Stadium gig includes musicians who had worked with the late American singer in the 1960s and 1970s.
Most of the original performing line-up are from Presley's former band, The TCB (Taking Care of Business) Band, and back-up singing groups The Imperials, The Stamps and The Sweet Inspirations.
In a phone interview on Tuesday (17 August 2004) from Memphis, Joe Guercio, the concert's musical director who directed and conducted Presley's concerts from 1970 to 1977 and who has worked with big names like Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand, said he believes that Presley's appeal transcends age. In fact, he did not have a strong impression of the singer prior to working with him, but became an instant convert after they met in the studio for their first rehearsals in 1970.
'After five minutes with him, it was obvious that Elvis had total control of the band and there was this charisma and energy about him. And that's what his shows were all about,' said Guercio, 65.
Even then, he was initially sceptical about the concept of the current show when the idea was proposed back in 1997 as a way to mark the 20th anniversary of Presley's death. 'We had not seen these musicians in years, some since 1970. And I was thinking to myself: 'Okay, a lot of old people are going to walk in.' 'But once we started, it all just happened again and I realised that nothing has really changed.'
The chemistry between band members such as guitarist James Burton and drummer Ronnie Tutt was intact. It even led to a teary-eyed occasion when they were practising Bridge Over Troubled Water. 'Some of the girls started getting emotional when we were halfway through it,' Guercio recalled. 'We had to take a five-minute break to get everyone back again.' The current touring show, he said, is the next best thing to experiencing Elvis live for overseas fans, especially since the singer only performed five shows outside the US during his lifetime. These were in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa in 1957.
The show's producer, Stig Edgren, said that the tour group is committed to making the Elvis experience as authentic as possible. The current tour involved six months of meticulous hard work. 'We started with his best concerts and basically picked his best numbers to
use for the show,' he said.
Songs include Love Me Tender, Heartbreak Hotel and Can't Help Falling In Love plus a never seen before rare footage of Are You Lonesome Tonight from That's The Way It Is.
Judging by ticket sales, there is still an audience in Singapore hungry for Elvis nostalgia. Tickets, priced between $100 and $300 tickets were snapped up, said Singapore events organiser Panpac Events Management. WK Koo, chief operating officer for Panpac Media Group, said the company had brought in the show because it wanted to give Singaporeans the chance to experience an 'exhilarating' combo of modern technology and classic hits. Still, some fans may be deterred from going to the Elvis concert because of the exorbitant ticket prices.
Engineer George Ong, 27, is one ardent Presley fan did not attend the event. Ong, who has a collection of Presley albums from the 1950s to the 1970s, said the tickets were just too costly for him. But a Panpac spokesman explained that the tickets were priced high because of the hi-tech equipment required for the show. But there are other fans like Thomas Forster, 39, director of the private wealth management division in a foreign bank, who made the special trip to relive Elvis all over again.
'For a fan, this is an ultimate dream come true,' said the German, who will be going to the concert with his Singaporean wife. He said he had watched the touring concert a number of times in the US and Australia over the past few years, and the show was really superb and most exciting. 'The way the musicians interact with Elvis on screen is so natural that you can feel the love in the arena,' he said.
As the King himself sang in Love Me Tender: 'I'll be yours through all the years, till the end of time.'