My wife – known as VampireLover in the blogosphere – is a hard person to know.
She refuses to wear her heart on her sleeve, preferring to keep her own counsel. To know her heart, you must win her respect. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank the good Lord above for giving me the opportunity to win her love.
She is, quite honestly, the best person I know.
My favorite person.
And so, when she informed me that she would be attending a little show called Return To Grace at our local casino for the fourth time, I couldn’t help but smile.
As many of you know, my wife’s world has been out of balance all year. Wrestling with one’s mortality can leave scars and while VanpireLover rarely breaks down, she has her moments of weakness, and those moments break my heart.
So I happily joined her in the front row of the Avalon Ballroom – seats five and six to be exact – and as the lights began to lower and the curtain rolled back, she was transformed from a domestic goddess to a squealing school girl with eyes set square on The King of Rock ‘n Roll.
And trust me, her eyes did not deviate from that stage – not for a second. To be honest, I can’t really blame her. Stephen Kabakos may be referred to as an Elvis impersonator, but that term really does the man a disservice.
From the moment the show’s narrator – dressed in period clothing, ‘natch – takes the stage and begins to discuss the King’s life, beginning, ironically, with his untimely death, the audience is pulled back in time.
The life and music of Elvis Presley means something different to everyone: to some he is a symbol of the purity of gospel music. To others, he embodies the sinful delights of rock music.
The point is, over the course of his life Elvis became much more than a man with incredibly flexible hips and an unforgettable voice, he became a Godlike figure people could turn to in their time of need.
I think its safe to say that he has never been needed more. Let’s face it, there simply isn’t a performer working today that can hold a candle to the King at the height of his career.
“He belonged to us.” is the exact line used several times throughout the show, and those words hold water even today. Elvis was a man of the people; he understood the heart and mind of the common man so well because that’s how he thought of himself. he was a god to his fans, but in his heart, he was still a shy, little boy with a head full of dreams and a heart full of the talent necessary to make them come true.
So the question is, was Kabakos able to succeed where so many others have failed, and actually bring the King back to life for an audience desperate to catch a glimpse of their messiah again, even if only for one night?
Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, as soon as his patent leather shoes touch the stage, Stephen Kabakos vanishes. In his place, Elvis Presley lives again to bring to life music that is a little rockabilly, a little gospel, a little… well, everything, to be exact.
My wife’s entire demeanor changed in an instant; her smile was bright enough to light the entire theater, her hands rarely stopped clapping, and her happiness radiated like a beacon of hope. She was a sight to see.
And she wasn’t alone.
After cycling through the King’s musical catalogue – including the early Sun Studio recordings, through to the army, movie, ’68 Comeback, and explosive concert years – with a vengeance, (including my favorite Elvis song of all time, If I Can Dream, a song that actually carries a timeless message, as opposed to the forgettable fluff songs of today.),
Kabakos Elvis reached a point in his show that VampireLover has been referencing ever since the conclusion of the last show we saw last year.
“I want a scarf! We’re going to sit in the front and no matter what, I’m walking out of there with a scarf!”
And so after staring into the King’s eyes with longing – I honestly thought she was going to pounce when he sat down to perform a song on the front of the stage directly across from us – VampireLover waited for the appropriate moment and as soon as a scantily clad backup dancer appeared with an armful of scarves destined to be draped upon the waiting necks of a handful of chosen fans, she was gone.
Her seat popped up, a wisp of smoke was all that remained.
I cast my gaze to the end of the aisle and there she was, my radiant wife, standing at attention as Elvis wiped his glistening brow with a blue scarf before placing it around her neck. He then kissed her on the cheek (Did you hear it? His microphone caught the “MWAH” sound!), after which she eagerly returned the gesture.
I’m still not sure how I feel about watching my wife kiss another man, but it wasn’t about me, so who cares? her happiness was, and will always be, all that matters.
After she floated back to her seat, the wife and I looked on as all heck broke loose.
- A little gray-haired old lady reached forward, grabbed the King by his collar, and pulled him from his kneeling position.
- He lay on his front for a moment and then she flipped him over like a crocodile playing with his prey!
- A group of ladies joined in and they pulled him closer, smothering him with kisses.
- After what had to have been a few very tense moments, Elvis pulled himself away.
- Flat on his back, the King declared, “I think I need a cigarette!”
And that, folks, is the litmus test for a truly gifted performer. Kabakos could have lost his connection to the King’s spirit, and no one would have blamed him. Instead, despite being mauled by several pairs of geriatric hands, he kept his cool.
The King couldn’t have done it better himself.