Experiencing Elvis once more

By CHEAH UI-HOON, Business Times Online, 20 Aug 2004

THESE four veteran musicians - Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, Joe Guercio, Glen Hardin - aren't exactly well-known names unless you're an avid music fan. Here's a clue: think Elvis Presley.


These four who played for him in the 70s can tell you all about the King of Rock's inimitable talent and style, or better still, show you what a concert with the King was like. Which is exactly what they're in town to do - they're performing Elvis - The Concert tomorrow.

And no, it's not an impersonation-type concert, thanks to technology. Says Stig Edgren, the producer of the concert: 'The most important thing which is also difficult to convey to people is that there won't be an impersonator. It's really Elvis.' Elvis in a video projection, that is.

The 'real' human beings on stage will be his original band members and backup singers - The Sweet Inspirations and The Stamps Quartet. 'What we've done is to compile Elvis' isolated vocal tracks so that he's really singing and talking in the concert. This will be combined with footage of his finest concert performances,' says Mr Edgren in a phone interview from Hawaii.

This is possible because such recordings were made because of Elvis's fame. Not all of the earlier stars had isolated vocal tracks, points out Mr Edgren. 'For anyone here who's seen a live performance, this would bring back very strong memories of the original concerts. In fact, the show also looks and sounds better because of improvements in sound and lighting. We've updated it in that sense.'

Elvis - The Concert has been performed over 100 times since 1998. The show was mooted by Graceland in 1997, and was so successful that it's toured internationally since its debut a year later. Mr Edgren, 50, was approached because of his experience in putting up world-class events - developing a new concert format by using state-of-the-art video projection techniques to create interactive shows.

His first live 'video duet' concert was pairing Natalie Cole and a video projection of her famous father, Nat King Cole, singing Unforgettable. Talking about what it was like to recruit the band members for this performance, Mr Edgren reveals it did take a bit of arm-twisting.

'Back in the 90s, the band members hadn't done something like this before, and there's also an emotional concern for some of them. The first time we put video and the live band together, everybody had to stop for a minute.' He worked closely with Joe Guercio, the musical director and conductor for Elvis's shows from 1970 to 1976. Guercio created the now almost iconic six-note theme for Elvis's stage entrances and bows.

Ronnie Tutt was Elvis's drummer from 1969 to 1977, while Jerry Scheff was the bass guitarist. Glen Hardin will reprise his role on piano. A total of 32 songs will be in the show. 'We chose the best songs to be presented in the 90s, and they also reflect the changes from an era to another,' says Mr Edgren. At least he won't have to worry that the crew will be mobbed by fanatic female fans before or after the concert.

'And Elvis won't need a dressing room either,' he quips. Elvis - The Concert is on at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tomorrow night at 8pm. Tickets from $100 to $300 are available from Sistic.

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