Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column. kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Elvis Spectacular takes Carrickfergus by storm!

FOR MONTHS the Elvis fans of County Antrim eagerly awaited the arrival of Jim Brown’s Elvis Spectacular in Carrickfergus. I enjoyed his superb albums, ‘Gravelands’ and ‘Return to Splendour’ and hoped that the live show would be up to the same high standard. Happily, I was not disappointed, nor were any of the other 300+ fans who packed the venue at the plush Clarion Hotel.

Fair play to the organisers who turned up to find that the hotel management had placed the stage in the wrong place entirely. They had to work like Trojans to put everything in the right place before the show began. This caused a slight delay in opening the doors to the general public. None of this seemed to phase the patient Elvis fans from Carrick, though.

An enthusiastic disc jockey got the room into the mood with a lively mix of oldies and more recent hits, before Nick Freeman, the Rathcoole troubadour, took the stage for an excellent solo set. He treated us to energetic covers of Chuck Berry’s hit, ‘Johnny B Goode’, the Don McClean standard ‘American Pie’ and one of my all time favourites, ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Cheekily, he also gave a fine rendition of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. He wasn’t supposed to do any Elvis songs, but I suppose he could always argue that this is a Carl Perkins song! No matter. He did his job. He got the audience clamouring for more as he set the stage for the main attraction.

A massive cheer went up as The King and his band took the stage. Dressed as ‘Young Elvis’ in a gold lame jacket he set a fast pace with magnificent covers of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Don’t be Cruel’. This brought half a dozen women to their feet to dance in front of the stage. A move up-tempo to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ brought even more women to their feet, helped along by The King’s pelvic vibrations and a funky guitar riff from the promoter and lead guitarist, Mervyn Boyd. Still in character, the singer shared the news to the audience. “On January 8th I turned 71 years old. Not bad, huh?” Not bad at all, the audience agreed.

After ‘Teddy Bear’ and another magnificent guitar piece from Mervyn Boyd, The King came down among the audience to belt out a real tearjerker, before introducing “my biggest record” with 22 million discs sold, ‘It’s now or never’. I swear that if I’d heard this on the radio I’d have taken it for the real Elvis. Still in character, he announced that “I was born with a guitar in my hand” before launching into a rousing version of ‘Devil in Disguise’ and leading a chorus of birthday greetings to Sandra Brown, the winner of The Wizard competition for two tickets to the Elvis Spectacular.

The pace to the interval quickened with a faster and faster version of ‘Hound Dog’ and a request from the audience for ‘Wooden Heart’ and a track from the ‘Gravelands’ CD. Wow!

Fifteen minutes later an older Elvis came on stage in the Las Vegas style white sequinned jump suit. He had the audience eating out of his hand. It was truly incredible. Women in the audience queued up on the dance floor for one of his sweat-soaked silk scarves. A woman fled the dance floor in tears of emotion at his powerful rendition of ‘My Way’. I particularly loved his versions of ‘American Trilogy’, ‘All Shook Up’ and the first record I ever bought in my life, the 1972 Number One hit, ‘The Wonder of You’.

This show could have gone on all night. Some of the audience showed no inclination to go home, but they surely got good value for their twelve quid. I’ve been to gigs where the main attraction stayed on stage for less than an hour. In the Elvis Spectacular, Jim Brown was on stage for more than two exciting hours. I can’t recommend his stage act highly enough. Jim Brown is unsurpassable, and Diane, Kelly and Sam – the Sweet Sensations – compliment the act well.

Full marks are also due to the exciting lead guitarist Mervyn Boyd, bassist Trevor Dyke, drummer Graham Kincaid and Simon Templeton on the keyboard. I was so impressed I wanted to know when and where the next gig is going to be held. I had a quick word with Mervyn Boyd the promoter who let slip the news that the Elvis Spectacular is coming to the Courtyard Theatre in Ballyearl, Newtownabbey on June 25th 2006. This is quite a small venue, so you’ll need to get in quick if you don’t want to miss out on a ticket. Buy one. You won’t regret it.

- David Kerr.

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