Review: ‘Elvis Birthday Bash’

Ronnie Mack's 11th annual celebration of the King's birth (it would've been Elvis's 62nd) may be best remembered for the reunion of the Knack and their rave-up renditions of "Blue Suede Shoes," "One Night" and "Viva Las Vegas." Most importantly, however, Mack's affair was a complete celebration of Elvis Presley's greatness rather than a rockabilly revival, an event that celebrated Presley through a string of stellar perfs. The lineup of more than 40 acts relied heavily on regulars from Mack's weekly Barn Dance, a free country-rockabilly-rock showcase held Tuesdays at Jack's Sugar Shack, as well as vets from past Elvis Bashes.

Segues from act to act were flawless and perfs sounded well-conceived and rehearsed. This was the smoothest Bash since the annual sell-out moved to the House of Blues three revues ago.

Most acts went for straight renditions and the straightest of the night might well have been the best. James Intveld’s rousing “If I Can Dream” captured all of the original’s passion, the backup band working from its bluesy core rather than its schmaltzy fringe and the two collectively drove the tune to a fierce apex.

On the interpretive side, the Blazers’ cool “Stuck on You” benefited greatly from accordion and acoustic guitar; guitarist Albert Lee found an improvisational launch pad in “Wear Your Ring Around My Neck” that spurred the band to some of its most inspired playing of the night.

Naturally, the evening (proceeds from which benefit Union Rescue Mission) concentrated on Presley’s ’50s recordings for Sun and RCA – the hub of rock ‘n’ roll’s childhood. And even if it’s only one night a year, Elvis Presley is celebrated as an important and integral artist rather than lambasted as a reminder of wretched excess – a most worthy notion.

Elvis Birthday Bash

House of Blues; 1,000 capacity;$15

Production

Presented by Art Fein, Ronnie Mack and House of Blues.

Crew

Reviewed Jan. 8, 1997.

Cast

Performers: the Knack, Pearl Harbour, Tim Polecat, Jamie James, Swamp Dogg, Barry Holdship, Russell Scott, the Blazers, Rockin Rebels, James Intveld, Rosie Flores, Ray Campi, Keith Allison, Albert Lee, Lee Rocker, Sprague Bros., Lee Rocker, Ronnie Mack and the Barn Dance Band, others.
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