Elvana review: Elvis-fronted Nirvana tribute needs a little more action from its King
PUBLISHED: 21:34 05 October 2018 | UPDATED: 21:34 05 October 2018
Peanut butter and jam, chocolate and chilli, cheese and Marmite.
These are all things that likely took a bold person to try out together first time around, and - in this reviewer’s opinion - all work pretty well, despite best logic telling you they probably shouldn’t.
So when it was announced a band by the name of ‘Elvana’ would be coming to Norwich - a beyond eccentric mixture of Nirvana and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself - it had all the makings of music’s next PB and J and, of course, I jumped at the chance. After all, who wouldn’t want to see what it would be like if Elvis Presley was frontman of Nirvana?
However, with all concoctions of two worlds colliding, balance is the key. Too much of either ingredient and it ceases to be a recipe for success.
The gig at Norwich Waterfront sets the tone perfectly, with a hilarious fictional back story of haphazard time travel explaining how the band formed, followed by a heroic entrance to the Back to the Future soundtrack.
The three musicians take to the stage first and break into Fade Away, before ‘The King’ emerges, all decked out in a trademark red caped-onesie and matching shade, This bodes well.
However, once he begins to sing it becomes more apparent what Elvana is - less a Nirvana tribute band fronted by an Elvis impersonator, and more one led by somebody dressed as Elvis.
And this is disappointing, as - at least to me - as it leaves me with something of a suspicious mind about just how the concept came about.
After the first few numbers, the Elvis ‘impersonator’ even admits he neithers sound like Elvis, or attempts to, and - in no uncertain terms - indicates it doesn’t bother him.
Which, from where I’m standing, reveals the rationale of the band. You can almost picture the conversation when forming it. Something along the lines of: “We want to be a Nirvana tribute, but how can when market that with so many others about? How about I just dress as Elvis.”
Even the merchandise on sale, while very clever, reeks of carefully planned marketing - pictures of Elvis shoehorned onto Nirvana album covers. It’s all very, very calculated.
In the set, there are flashing of just how could the concept could be. The occasional medleys, including one of Love Me Tender and a Nirvana song with a title the complete antithesis of this really stands out. Ditto the odd snake-hipped swivel.
These flashes of pure idiosyncrasy is what I came for, but disappointingly, it was just flashes.
But any Elvis impersonator would tell you there is more to the role than a flashy outfit, occasionally interspersing a line from ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and following songs with “thank you very much”.
Were the band to have chosen the name ‘Batvana’ and wheeled out a singer dressed as the Dark Knight, the end product wouldn’t be too much different.
But this does not detract from the fact that - as a Nirvana tribute band - Elvana are great. Really, really great and the reactions of the sold-out crowd suggest I wasn’t alone in thinking this.
As far as execution goes, you would really do well to find better renditions of the grunge pioneers’ back catalogue.
However, despite how much energy goes into the show, I still feel a little short changed by the level of commitment to the concept the band give.
I went hoping for the full, bonkers realisation of an Elvis impersonator singing Nirvana songs - two worlds colliding. In reality, what I felt was an admittedly very solid Nirvana tribute - with the singer in fancy dress.