'The Original Elvis Tribute 2009'

Concert Review - By Jutta Vetter

The Original Elvis Tribute rock'n'rolled through Finland last week and the Finnish Elvis fans had a blast! Elvis' bass-player Duke Bardwell anchored the show while a fascinating selection of rare Elvis songs, including His Latest Flame, Fame And Fortune and Power Of My Love, helped create something unique.

The tour also took in Poland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Journalist Jutta Vetter was there to check out the vibe..


The Finnish Elvis fans were having a blast last week: The Original Elvis Tribute 2009 performed at Klubi Tampere on May 15th and at Klubi Turku on May 16th. This tribute show had already twice performed in Texas before coming to Europe - one of the gigs as a warm-up for James Burton & Band. From Finland the tribute band continued to Poland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands.

"We feel that this is a very special show, because it's a genuine tribute to Elvis featuring some of the finest singers and musicians around. This show is done with class and passion for the man and his music. No silly impersonators in white glitter-outfits - this show is about the music", promised organizer Arjan Deelen.

The warm-up band for the two Finnish gigs was Whistle Bait with its rocking Elvis movie tunes.

One of the most interesting performers of The Original Elvis Tribute 2009 was Duke Bardwell, Elvis’ bass player from 1974 to 1975 – Duke played 181 gigs and some studio sessions with Elvis. "I never counted the gigs", Bardwell told me after the show. "Someone else did it for me." This one was Duke’s first visit to Finland as well as his first Elvis tribute, and obviously enjoyed it very much.

On stage, he seemed really happy and relaxed - a skillful bass player! He also chatted with his audience and created a nice and relaxed atmosphere for the whole band to play in. As a person he was a really charming gentleman with a nice southern accent, who still clearly respects Elvis.

(Right:Duke Bardwell)

Click here for Arjan Deelen's 2009 interview with Duke Bardwell

Another interesting person in this line-up was Michael Jarrett – writer of the Elvis-songs I’m Leavin’ and I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day. He also played the keyboard during the shows.

The other performers were Ted Roddy (vocals & harmonica), Marc Singer (drums), Thierry Le Coz (lead guitar) and Vikki Lee (backing vocals & guitar). In Turku Michael Jarrett’s daughter Michele (see her story below) also performed doing backing vocals on two songs.

Roots-singer Ted Roddy didn’t even try to imitate Elvis, but rather interpreted his songs in a skilful, original way with his deep baritone voice. Drummer Marc Singer never skipped a beat, and is really an amazing drummer. Originally from France, Thierry Le Coz with his rockabilly style and great guitar riffs was really rocking at both shows! It was of course also great to have a lady on stage - Vikki Lee played and sang with style.

One of the highlights of the shows was Duke Bardwell’s own bluesy version of Heartbreak Hotel. In Turku, he also performed his own beautiful song You & I, which he originally had written for his sister’s wedding. This song can be heard on Duke Bardwell’s album Angel’s Wings (1999). Once, he had performed the song to Elvis who insisted on hearing the same tune over and over again. Elvis liked the song so much that he wanted to record it immediately, but unfortunately never got the rights for the song due to some contract restrictions.

Michael Jarrett (left) performing his own songs I’m Leavin’ and I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day on stage were also very touching moments – especially in Turku the intensity of the songs was very strong. The audience loved his versions, and Jarrett also seemed happy to get a great ovation from his audience.

Personally, I also liked the rocking Just Because performed by Thierry Le Coz in Tampere very much. "This one’s for my girlfriend", he said with a grin on his face. I thought he was going to perform something really romantic, but he immediately started rocking to Elvis’ catchy Sun Records tune instead.

The show covered songs from Elvis’ whole career, and I was happy to notice that this tribute did not only contain hits, but also songs such as Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Way Down, His Latest Flame, Rubberneckin’, Fame And Fortune, Power Of My Love, T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Polk Salad Annie and even Please Don’t Drag That String Around! The shows ended with two great encore-songs. Most of the songs performed during the two gigs were the same, but some minor changes in the set list were done.

Both gigs were more than two hours long. The 300 first to arrive at the venue were rewarded with a free Elvis promo-cd especially made for the shows in Finland. This album contains 24 Elvis songs, all of which are recorded with Duke playing the bass.

From my personal point of view, I enjoyed both gigs very much – I think the Tampere show was very good, the Turku show was excellent!

Afterwards I tracked down Duke Bardwell off-stage who was clearly relaxed, happy and enjoyed the concert. I talked a lot with him, also about other things than just Elvis, and he was a very friendly and charming man. He said that playing with Elvis was more than he ever could have wished for.

Review by Jutta Vetter
Copyright Text and photos, Jutta Vetter - May 2009

Click here to comment on this review

Go here for other relevant information:

Arjan Deelen's 2009 interview with Duke Bardwell

2009 Michael Jarrett Interview

The Original Elvis Tribute 2009 Tour Details


(left, Duke Bardwell & Elvis on stage in Memphis 1974)

"It was so crazy to hear Elvis sing about me!": 30 years after The King's death, Michele Jarrett found out that Elvis once sang about her; Michele Jarrett was barely 10 years old when Elvis died, but nevertheless she's one of the very few people who can rightfully claim that The King really sang about her - a claim that even his ex-wife Priscilla or his daughter Lisa Marie cannot make. It's even more remarkable when you realize that Elvis never met Michele nor even knew about her existence. So that's the story behind this? Well, Michele is the daughter of songwriter Michael Jarrett, who wrote a.o. 'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day' for Presley. Jarrett often used his personal life as an inspiration for his writing, and he wrote this melancholic song on Christmas Eve 1969, right in the middle of a painful divorce. He was completely alone and missing his family, when the words came to him. On the original demo that Michael recorded for Elvis, there was a verse about his children: "Been so long since I've seen little John, Michele, Christine and Kelly; And I almost forgot with all the presents, that I bought a purse for little sister to carry". When Elvis' version of 'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day' was released in late '71 on 'Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas', Michael was not surprised to find out that Elvis had skipped that verse.
After all, it was a very personal verse about Michael's kids, and he understood that Presley could not relate to it. Imagine Michael's surprise 30 years after Elvis' death, when he heard an outtake of the song where Elvis did sing the 'missing' verse! The first thing he did was call his daughter Michele (right), who was completely flabbergasted.  "It's so crazy", she says today, "I remember it was shortly after my mom passed away, and my dad sent me a clip of it.  Talk about a wild thing!  I played it for my family, and we were all just looking at each other like, is that really what I'm hearing!". Both Michael and Michele Jarrett are part of 'The Original Elvis Tribute 2009' which will be touring Europe in May. "I have always been so proud of my dad", she says, "and I'm so excited for this tour. I know this will be an amazing trip for him, as well as everybody on the tour.  I know I'm so thankful to be a part of it!".
Click here to listen to the 'missing' verse as sung by Elvis: - Click here for tour details.









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