Some people can be dismissive of tribute acts, but for fans of stars who have died, this is the only way to enjoy a live concert experience of their music.
And although I’ll admit I’ve seen some shockers, when a tribute act is done well, it can be a truly lovely experience.
One such performer is Ben Portsmouth a young guy who grew up listening to the music of Elvis Presley, due to his father’s fondness for the King of Rock and Roll.
Ben’s website is called Taking Care of Elvis, and that care shines through his quite brilliant act. He is coming to the Wycombe Swan later this month, and I was fortunate to see him earlier on his tour when he made a stop at Watford Colosseum. He respects the man he is honouring, but Ben has a charming stage presence of his own, and a friendly and jokey relationship with the audience which was made up of all ages and equally split between men and women.
He recreates Elvis from his early days at the Sun recording studios and takes the show through the Hollywood film years, Presley’s leather clad ‘68 Comeback Special and into the white jumpsuit Vegas years.
Ben is a master craftsman and has clearly studied Elvis to the nth degree. Not only does he recreate the Elvis sound, but he has the mannerisms off to a tee, the identical outfits and the look. The lighting often seemed to be dim at the show I saw, and the spotlight did not always shine fully on Ben. I began to wonder if it was deliberate, to create an illusion of mystery and make the audience really believe it was Elvis they were watching. But there really is no need to use such trickery, if indeed that’s what it was. Ben has the hair, the aquiline nose, the tanned skin, the cheeky smile - he does look like Elvis. He must work as hard on his fitness as he does on the sound and look,because this is a physical show and he gives it his all.
Stills and video of Elvis play on a big screen, and the hits are all included. The second half is run as a Vegas concert experience and opens with the theme tune from 2001 Space Odyssey and CC Rider, recreating the entrance Elvis himself used at these shows.
Ben interacts constantly with the adoring audience, many of whom run down to the front of the stage to reach for scarves and catch teddy bears. He even invited a woman up on stage to dance and be his Ann-Margret during a Viva Las Vegas number. He clearly has a devoted following, just read any of the comments beneath his YouTube videos - he is considered one of the best Elvis tributes, and made history when he won the Elvis Presley Enterprises ‘Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest’ in Memphis in 2012 - the only artist outside America to ever win the title.
He plays at Wycombe Swan at 7.30pm Saturday September 24. Tickets £25, discounts available. Box office 01494 512000.