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.
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