Gig review: Elvis in Concert Live on Screen with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Elvis Presley from the 68 Comeback Special. Picture: Elvis Presley Enterprises
Elvis Presley from the 68 Comeback Special. Picture: Elvis Presley Enterprises
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A concert where the star attraction isn’t actually present in the room really shouldn’t work.

Yet in an era where arena audiences are accustomed to seeing performers in far closer detail on the big screen than they are in the flesh such things don’t seem as important as the quality of the entertainment on show.

And that’s where Elvis in Concert Live on Screen triumphs, thanks to three things – the excellence of the footage of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll used in this show that captures Presley in all his glory in Las Vegas and at the 1968 Comeback Special; the songs themselves that helped define an era; and the quality of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra whose live playing adds a new dimension to the original recordings.

Add to that the natural charm of Elvis Presley’s former wife, Priscilla, who has so astutely guided his estate since the singer’s death in 1977, and you have all the ingredients for a winning show. Whether she’s looking back at old clips of her and Elvis with their baby daughter Lisa Marie, shaking hands and chatting with audience members or praising the “best” Yorkshire Tea, she carries it off with aplomb.

An opening sequence of Burning Love, Welcome To My World and Steamroller Blues shows Elvis by turns as a smouldering rock’n’roller, vulnerable balladeer and bluesy powerhouse. The orchestra comes into its own in a smoky rendition of Fever while Just Pretend and Don’t reveal the King’s tender side, then Elvis’ fondness first for opera then gospel shines through in It’s Now Or Never and How Great Thou Art.

Sandwiched in between is a classy montage of images of a young Elvis with his parents Gladys and Vernon that accompanies In The Ghetto.

The second half of the show zips along with one rock’n’roll number after another. Trouble, Guitar Man, Hound Dog, Don’t Be Cruel, Heartbreak Hotel, All Shook Up and Blue Suede Shoes are all immaculately presented but Love Me Tender, presented with flickering black and white footage from the film of the same name, and a sizzling performance of Suspicious Minds, with Elvis at his hip-swivelling best, prove even more powerful.

As the concert climaxes with two show stoppers, American Trilogy and If I Can Dream, the audience gives the orchestra a standing ovation. It’s well deserved.

Elvis may have left the building but his legacy very much goes marching on.