On August 16th, 2017, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, acclaimed singer-songwriter, Elio Pace premiered a very special, intimate and completely unique concert at The Capitol Theatre, Horsham, honouring his childhood musical idol. Elio's personal and heartfelt performance featured many Elvis Presley classics as well as some rarely-heard and forgotten gems. The sell-out concert received 5-star accolades across the board and was cited by many as the greatest show they had ever seen.
This album is the precious recording of that very night; the world premiere of the groundbreaking ‘ELIO PACE presents ELVIS PRESLEY’.
As you will hear, Elio’s sensational singing and electrifying piano-playing is ingeniously accompanied by only the dynamic and percussive power of the incomparable drummer, Steve Rushton. Never before will you have heard Elvis’ catalogue presented like this. In truth, this is the complete antithesis to everything you know about ‘Elvis’ shows!
Here are two phenomenal reviews from two people who were there at the world premiere. Firstly, audience member Paul Wallace, and secondly Elizabeth Lickiss, officially reviewing on behalf of LondonTheatre1.com:
"When I first heard about this planned show I was intrigued. Once I heard about the planned concept of Elio on the piano accompanied by just a drummer I was a bit baffled. I was immediately thinking how on earth could the songs of Elvis be pulled off with just a piano and a drummer? What about the bass? Brass? Guitar? What's he thinking? I knew I simply had to be part of this, whatever it was going to sound like. I had to experience what this show had to offer as I fully trust Elio as the perfectionist he is and I knew if anyone could do it, it was him.
Now let me just state for the record that I'm not a huge Elvis diehard. Sure, I love the music of Elvis, as I do many artists, but I'm not one of those Elvis completists. I enjoy the standards and even bought a 5-album box set from Reader's Digest back in 1987 as a 16 year old lad. I've enjoyed the live DVDs and I do love to hear an Elvis cover version done differently. I've never been into those Elvis tribute shows where the artist pretends to be Elvis and acts, sings and dresses like him. I know many are top of their game with quite a few sounding just like him and I take nothing away from them but it's just not my bag. I've never made it through an Elvis film that features him as the star and there are quite a few standards that I've never liked, like Wooden Heart and (shock horror) Hound Dog. I do love many, many more of his vast catalogue though and I'm sure there's more stuff I'd love that I haven't heard yet. Still there's no denying it, Elvis was and continues to be the greatest entertainer, the greatest persona ever.
So getting back to the show. The concept is what drew me in. The fact I knew this wasn't going to be a novelty gig, no dressing-up, no lip-curling under quiffs doing the 'uh-huh-fank-you-very-much' kinda deal. No, this was going to be a performance of songs sung in Elio's naturally gifted voice, done to a stripped-down backing never tried live before.
As we entered the theatre's auditorium and took our seats, the stage was set with Elio's beautiful grand piano facing a fully loaded drum kit sat on a podium teasing us with the low lights glowing over them. It wasn't long before the house filled up, the lights went down and the stage lit up to roars as Steve Rushton took to his pilot seat. I was trying desperately to think how on earth do you even start an Elvis show like this one? Then it happened...
No messing! Boom ba-boom ba-boom boom ba-boom! Steve launches into that famous Presley 'See See Rider' intro that I remember from the live DVD that came after the '2001 - A Space Odyssey' theme tease and immediately the hairs on the back of my neck stood up! Steve (with his facial expressions looking like a manic Harry Hill crossed with the Phil Collins' 'You Can't Hurry Love' video backing singer character) was banging those drums like nothing I've ever heard before. Wow! The sound from them blew the roof off from the get-go as Elio walked on stage to more roars and took to the piano to launch into 'That's All Right'. I knew immediately that this was going to be a night like no other.
The first four songs were all in quick succession and grabbed us all completely. What followed was a wonderful collection of standards, a few surprises and some wonderful chat with Elvis facts and stories that mesmerised and educated in equal measures. The piano with just the drums was a marriage made in heaven. Between the pair of them Elio covered the bass with the deep piano keys and Steve with his booming bass drum. Piano melodies took the place of any guitar riff or blasts of brass that were absent and after a short time you didn't notice or even care that any other instruments were missing.
For nearly three hours we were treated to bundles of superb Presley classics. There were some of the obvious hits, all varied, from the rocked out ones to the gospel, to the sentimental ballads. There were a few surprises of a couple of more obscure songs and some linked together as medleys. Elio played accordion on a couple of tracks and Steven even played the piano at one point. We had a musical journey that took us on the highs and lows, with some comical anecdotes and some heart-wrenching ones. We even had Elio singing 'O Sole Mio' into 'It's Now Or Never'. It was just amazing, the variety of sound to be had.
Elio starting the second half of the show appearing from the back of the theatre, walking down the stairs through the audience to the stage, while singing 'Heartbreak Hotel', was ridiculously cool. We had the fun tunes from some of Elvis' dodgy films and songs from when he was simply top of the world. Halfway through the second half we were reminded that the day was the 40th anniversary of Elvis passing away. Elio had told us a story of how the great Albert Lee used to carry a cassette recorder around with him and he had it with him in a hotel room in 1977 when the news broke of Elvis' death. He recorded the radio's breaking news on the spot, and we were privileged that Albert had lent Elio the actual recording to play in the show. You could've heard a pin drop as the stage dimmed and we listened to the reporter's voices cracking as they delivered the shocking news. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as the tape finished and Elio started to play 'An American Trilogy'. Absolutely heartbreaking hearing it in that context directly after those sad radio recordings.
The show was lifted to the sky and beyond for the last 20 minutes. Everyone was up dancing and singing as one hit after another was blasted our way. Sure, not every hit was performed as that was impossible seeing as Elvis recorded hundreds of songs, but in the three hours we were treated to no less than forty-five of them! Now that's impressive.
'ELIO PACE presents ELVIS PRESLEY' was a truly wonderful experience and I'm glad I was part of it. This show could make the pair a fortune in Vegas as it's the kind of show that could run forever in a residency at Caesars Palace or the Wynns amongst others. But don't tell Elio that just yet as we want this show to reach as many people as possible right here in the UK before it goes stratospheric!
Elvis has left the building. For now, anyway."
- Paul Wallace, 17 August, 2017
"There was a hushed excitement in the packed auditorium at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham. Many of the audience who’d come were obviously Elvis fans with all the studs, glitz and slicked backed hair they could muster (I swear I saw some blue suede shoes!). All were waiting to celebrate, remember and enjoy the music of ‘The King’ at this very special 40th anniversary tribute evening. They weren’t to be disappointed. The opening drum solo by Steve Rushton was pure quality and left everyone raring for more. His drumming was a masterclass in precision and rhythmic gymnastics and I could have listened to his playing all night. For this performance, Pace had left his band behind and this was a duo performance with drums, piano and vocals only. The connection between Pace and Rushton was tangible. They worked together as one to produce a sound that was full, vibrant, complex and sensitive. The energy that pulsated from the stage was truly awesome and didn’t let up for the whole evening – no mean feat for a two-man band. It was obvious that Pace and Rushton had collaborated closely to produce this show. The ease with which they worked together and read each other’s musical intentions cannot be produced overnight. This was a highly professional performance by Pace and Rushton which reflected a diligent and dedicated approach to their craft.
Nothing was left to chance, the detail was there and from the opening bar, it was clear that this show had been conceived, developed and considered with insight and thought over a long period of time.
Many of the audience were local, but others had travelled some distance to be at the show having experienced Elio’s 'Billy Joel Songbook' show previously. Elio Pace has a unique way of connecting with the audience from the start. His blend of storytelling, virtuoso piano playing and vocal renditions of Elvis favourites had the audience hooked from the beginning. There were people of all ages in the theatre that night and they all had a fantastic time. I took my mother with me and, although she claimed to be, ‘much younger than Elvis’ she is, in fact, a contemporary of his. Her verdict on the evening was ‘magic – pure magic’. However, she did say she was glad Elio didn’t do the whole rhinestone look and kept the gyrating to a couple of fun thrusts in the second half! I think that this was appreciated by the diehard fans too – this wasn’t another Elvis impersonator but a talented musician celebrating the musical genius that was Elvis.
Elio’s sensitive performance was interjected with a narrative which informed but didn’t bore the audience. I certainly learned a lot about Elvis – both his personal and professional life. In the interval, I heard many people saying, ‘I didn’t know that – did you?’ It was during the interval that I met Jane and her friend Beverly, who told me they’d been to Graceland three times and just ‘wanted to be somewhere special on this anniversary evening’. When I asked if they were enjoying their evening they said, ‘we were worried that it would be a tacky Elvis impersonator but a friend, who had seen Elio before said that we would be in for a treat. He wasn’t kidding – this evening has been wonderful’. Duncan, who had been dragged along by his girlfriend said, ‘she loves Elvis and it’s her birthday so I bought the tickets but I’m surprised by how much I am enjoying the show’.
Kerry practically screamed at me ‘it’s the best birthday present EVER’. Matt, a local musician in his thirties, was impressed by Elio’s vocals, ‘he has a powerful, rich voice and the tone, musical phrasing and vocal clarity is polished without losing grit and integrity – that’s not easy you know!’. I bet it isn’t easy but Elio makes it seem so. His ease on stage and his obvious affinity for the music kept the audience in the palm of his hand. Although there were no scene changes, no support group, no theatrics the show worked on every level.
Elio’s virtuosity made for an evening of memorable music. He sang a repertoire from every stage of Elvis’s life from spiritual numbers to his well-known rock and roll pieces. Some of his lesser known music was celebrated together with some of his earlier pieces. I especially enjoyed hearing some of the music that isn’t normally played. Towards the end of the show, our travels with Elvis came to an end with his death. Using a radio broadcast from the time, Elio sang with such passion that some members of the audience were wiping away a tear. Quietly and gently the high-octane performance slowed down and the significance of the moment marked with a reflective, almost spiritual repass.
However, the evening didn’t end there as we were soon dancing in the aisles again with a compilation of numbers linking a myriad of different audience requests together. I do believe that everyone in the auditorium that night heard their favourites and their appreciation was obvious. Elio and Steve had several standing ovations during the evening and they were very well-deserved. I was delighted to hear that Elio has planned to tour this show as well as his well-received 'Billy Joel Songbook' performances. If you have a chance to go I would highly recommend it. I am not a diehard Elvis fan, I haven’t been to Graceland or married in the white chapel but after this evening, I may just look around for a pair of blue suede shoes!"
- Elizabeth Lickiss, LondonTheatre1.com, August, 2017