If ever there was doubt about the future success of “Elvis The Concert”, every shred of that was wiped away last Tuesday in Brussels – when the TCB Band, the Sweets, the Stamps and the Joe Guercio (local) Orchestra kicked of the 2005 tour in Forest National.
Let me be quite honest: up to 5 minutes before the lights went down, I was 100% sure that this would be the very last Concert on Belgian ground. The signs prior to the show were not good – at all. First off: this was the smallest team of original Band members that ever traveled with the Video show. No Ronnie Tutt, no Ed Hill, no Imperials… In fact, only 8 people on stage had actually worked with Elvis in the seventies, and that includes Ron Fuer, the organ player in Joe’s orchestra. Secondly, the ticket sales were under expectation with only 3000 tickets sold, two weeks prior to the show. And last but not least, the press seemed to have lost interest in the show. Not one journalist – except for one Belgian radio station (Studio Brussels) – paid attention to this event. Back in 1999, the first European virtual show made headline news with camera crews lining up to interview the band – but after 3 similar shows, the pregnancy of Britney Spears (‘Look how much weight she gained’) seems to be more important – glory to the simple minded..
But when I went in this huge, 6000 seats hall, “IT” was back! Promoter Clear Channel had managed to sell another 1500 tickets in two weeks time, mainly thanks to a campaign in the French speaking part of the country. It was Elvis Time in Brussels! His initials in bright lights on the curtain, the buzz of 4500 excited fans, Elvis-T-shirts, TCB necklaces, sideburns and Super Souvenir Programs everywhere. After 3 concerts in the small country of Belgium (Brussels 1999 and Antwerp 2001 and 2003), the turn-out of the fans (and non-fans) was once again astonishing. Agreed, 4500 sold tickets is no record, but hey – it was a Tuesday night and some people do have to go to work, right? The most heartwarming thing I noticed was the average age of the fans. Sure, there were elderly people as well – but that was a minority. I’d say the average age was about 40 – way too young to have experienced the pre 1977 Elvis hype. I saw kids, barely 5 years old, and in our group the youngest were 8 and 9. Isn’t that amazing? There were people coming from as far as Czech (I know, because we sold them the tickets), France, Germany and some of the UK (“no patience”). And the inevitable impersonators were there too, yes. Can’t security do something about that? What they may call a tribute is in reality mockery.
Back to the show: exactly 9 minutes after 8 the deep trembling of Ron Fuer’s synthesizer announced that The Band was Ready to Play! As soon as the curtain dropped, screams, yells and shouts filled the concert hall. It seemed as if a million flashbulbs went off at the same time. It was fabulous – once again, although this was my 14th Concert show. And There He Was: dressed in his Aloha suit, like a prince from another planet. O See, See Rider…
Frequent visitors know that the sound in Forest National has always been difficult to handle. The acoustics are terrible. Finish one song, and it comes right back at ya – not as bad as the Houston Astrodome, but close. This time, fortunately, the engineers almost got it right. Elvis’s voice was perhaps a bit too up-front in the mix (but did we really care?), and at times it seemed as if one of the major speakers on the right died for a second or two. Also, James’s guitar was too far back in the mix. It took the engineers 3 to 4 songs to fix the problem, and after that – it was a smooth run all the way.
For those who’re going to see the show in the UK or in Holland, let me tell you this about Paul Leim (Shania Twain, Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, Olivia Newton-John,..). He is one hell of a drummer. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person last Monday, and he is just the kindest, warmest man you can imagine. Very friendly, a wonderful musician and a true admirer of the King. Ronnie couldn’t have asked for a better replacement than Paul. Watch his Drum Magic during Polk Salad Annie (2nd song of the 2nd part), see the expression on his face and you’ll know what I mean. Welcome on board Paul, you have proven to be the right man at the right place. Ronnie made the right choice!
Also new on stage, was Tony Smith, who took John Wilkinson’s place next to James. Although Tony is a top guitarist (who took over James’s part in Paris, in 2002), he is too shy. Tony stepped out of the spotlight, leaving the attention 100% to James. I thought that it was wonderful that he used a Gibson Crest-like guitar, just like John used to have in the seventies. That is called RESPECT. Everything was there, the only thing missing perhaps, was a bit of spotlight for Tony. He knows his place on stage, and doesn’t want to push himself. That’s cool, but at the same time he’s very deserving of a bit more attention. Perhaps when he’s doing the home runs in the UK later this week?
Highlights of the shows were – among many – of course “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Trilogy”. Especially that last song gave goose bumps. Portia Griffin (Sweets) took the song to a higher level, with her beautiful – almost Gospel like – voice. Elvis Presley would have been so proud of what this lady adds to his music.
So, in short: this was NOT the opening show of the last tour ever. Far from. It can’t be. This was just the opening show of the Tour 2005. If Bob Sillerman is a smart man (and we know he is), this show will continue to tour the world for many more years to come. One condition though: he HAS to stick to the original band members. Imagine this show without James, Jerry, Glenn D. (you were awesome, Glenn!) or Joe – who would make the thing sparkle? Who else would make “it” happen? It’s exactly like Elvis said: these guys are the backbone of the whole show. They were and still are. More so, they’ve become his ambassadors.
O, on a final note – the souvenir booth of EPE was somewhat smaller than in 2003: 2 sorts of T-shirts, shirts, lanyards, little pink Cadillac’s, posters (and more posters), EP glasses, a few gold souvenir records and a small variety of CD’s – that’s about it.
For those who are waiting for THE Show: have fun tonight – for the others who saw the show in Brussels, I hope you enjoyed the evening like we did!
Picture by David Hamal.
And remember, the Elvis Matters fan club gives away a Duoticket For Elvis Classics.
By popular demand, the Belgian fanclub ElvisMatters presents “Elvis Classics II”, a rock show with a classical touch. On May 21st and 22nd, Elvis’s conductor Joe Guercio guides a 75 piece orchestra thru the best live songs of Elvis.
Last year, Joe Guercio praised on the show this way: “This is how Elvis wanted his songs to sound like. Elvis Classics is the ultimate tribute to his music.” Special guests are Jenson Bloomer and Tony Smith (UK).
Although the show on Saturday is sold out, we offer our visitors a chance to win 2 VIP-tickets for the Sunday show (7 pm). If you’d like to see this show in Belgium, please mail in your answer to this question: who composed the 2001-theme “Also Sprach Zarathustra”?
Send your answer to Elvis Matters
If you want to be sure not to miss this concert you can get more information on this concert in our events section.