On the day Elvis Presley would have turned 84, NBC is marking the occasion by announcing performers for its “Elvis All-Star Tribute,” which will air on February 17 from 9-11 p.m. (ET/PT).
A healthy mix of young stars (Post Malone, Ed Sheeran, Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes, Adam Lambert and Kelsea Ballerini) and established names (Blake Shelton, John Fogerty, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Groban, Darius Rucker, Pistol Annies, Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town and Mac Davis) recreated the look and feel of the famed Elvis “’68 Comeback Special.” Complete with its “boxing ring without ropes” set on a Universal City soundstage, the special, hosted by Shelton, was taped last October before an invited audience. Ken Ehrlich produced and Don Was served as musical director.
With Ehrlich on board as producer for his own AEG Ehrlich Ventures, the longtime Grammy guru leaned on his years of experience to match the right performer with the right song and come up with well-curated collaborations. Speaking to Variety, Ehrlich explains: “I was just listening to John Legend one day and thought, he’d be perfect for ‘A Little Less Conversation.’ … Keith Urban personally requested Post Malone for a duet on ‘Baby What You Want Me to Do,’ a section of the show which recalls the part when Elvis and his band were just casually playing together onstage. When I asked Post Malone about performing it, he said, ‘Oh, yeah, the Jimmy Reed song.’”
Other highlights from the two-night taping included Shawn Mendes’ take on “Hound Dog,” which prompted a laughing Mike Stoller — seated in the studio audience — to utter his famous refrain, “I always preferred Big Mama Thornton,” and Adam Lambert’s cover of “Blue Suede Shoes,” for which he paid homage to the Carl Perkins-penned original by sporting a pair. Says Lambert: “What was I supposed to wear? Red ones? Elvis defined pop culture in the ’50s with his voice, style and swagger. He was one of the first icons I ever listened to, so to take the stage during this anniversary tribute feels like a big honor.”
Aside from the in-the-round presentation, there are several other iconic set pieces, including Jennifer Lopez singing “Heartbreak Hotel” against the glimmering neon lights spelling out ELVIS, along with Yolanda Adams and Carrie Underwood’s gospel tribute and Josh Groban’s operatic “It’s Now or Never.”
The special will also feature interviews with Priscilla Presley and original ’68 special director Steve Binder, as well as an appearance from Lisa Marie Presley.
In addition, Sony Music Entertainment’s RCA/Legacy Recordings will release “The Best of the ’68 Comeback Special” on February 15, two days before the airing of “Elvis All-Star Tribute.” The new album is, in large part, a condensed version of a 7-disc boxed set released in November that included all of the recordings taped for the show. The February album will 15 Presley performances from the “stand-up” and “sit-down” shows filmed for the ’68 broadcast, plus three original studio recordings representing songs that appear in the new special. It also offers one intriguing bonus not included in the recent boxed set: a new version of the closing number, “If I Can Dream,” from the special, featuring Elvis’ original vocals alongside performances by Underwood, Mendes, Rucker, Shelton and Post Malone.
A complete listing of the scheduled performances:
“Trouble”/”Guitar Man” – Blake Shelton
“Hound Dog” – Shawn Mendes
“Baby, What You Want Me to Do” – Keith Urban & Post Malone
“Burning Love” – Keith Urban
“Jailhouse Rock” – John Fogerty
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” – Ed Sheeran
“Always on My Mind” – Kelsea Ballerini
“Heartbreak Hotel” – Jennifer Lopez
“One Night” – Darius Rucker
“Suspicious Minds” – Blake Shelton
“Love Me Tender” – Alessia Cara
“Memories” – Mac Davis
“A Little Less Conversation” – John Legend
“Are You Lonesome Tonight” – Little Big Town
“Blue Suede Shoes” – Adam Lambert
“Love Me” – Pistol Annies
Hits Medley (“That’s All Right,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Blue Suede Shoes”) – Mac Davis, Post Malone, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker & Blake Shelton
Gospel Medley (“How Great Thou Art,” “He Touched Me,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone”) – Carrie Underwood & Yolanda Adams
“Little Sister” – Dierks Bentley
“It’s Now or Never” – Josh Groban
“If I Can Dream” – Elvis Presley, Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton