By: Sharman Yarnell – mtltimes.ca
In 2001, Steve Michaels was crowned “Images of the King” World Champion in Memphis, Tennessee. Ironically, the real Elvis always opened his show with the orchestration of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odessey! Prophetic? Perhaps, but make no mistake, Michaels runs on talent, raw, energetic, well honed talent.
Since that time, he has not only travelled North America with his show that consists of a 30 piece band, but also Europe, Asia, Australia and India. On Sunday, Michaels will be boarding a tour bus, leaving Ontario, and heading to Montreal for a gig at Place des Arts with his highly popular Return to Grace.
His last stint in Montreal as Elvis was at the Rialto, but the growing popularity of the show demanded a larger venue and a larger show. Return to Grace is that show! Those who have seen Michaels swaying and singing as the ‘King’, swear by his ability to take you back to the era of rock n’ roll and beyond. He’s damn good –
His love for Elvis, and for the music of the 50s and 60s, started at a very early age. Growing up in Milton, Ontario, he listened to what his mother played and much of that was Elvis. “My mom was the wacky Elvis fan. She grew up with him in the 50s, and continues to love him today! Her claim to fame now is that “she made an Elvis”! He grew up listening to Buddy Holly, the Four Seasons, Rick Nelson. “I’m a huge follower of 50s and 60s music, but there are very few music genres that I don’t like.”
Michaels started off studying film but it wasn’t quite what he expected it to be, so he took a break from his studies and “took a job in the restaurant business, as so many do”. He also decided, in 1996, to enter the Elvis contest in Collingwood. Not really expecting anything from it, he simply went to see what would happen. That was his first public appearance as the ‘King’. It was then he decided to do more. He had found his Grail, so to speak. He put together a band and worked the act through Ontario. In the early years, he thought that he would see how well the act did and if it ever dropped in popularity, he would stop. That never happened – quite the contrary! “I kept thinking that each year that was it, but here I am.”
The show covers the eras from 1955 through to 1973. Rock n’ Roll, Gospel, Rockabilly, Country with ‘That’s Alright Mama’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Hound Dog’, ‘How great Thou Art’, ‘Jail House Rock’, ‘The Wonder of You’, ‘Kentucky Rain’.
Michaels takes his performance seriously, going beyond the actual performance in the tribute to Presley. He has done his research well, meeting with Presley’s inner circle of friends. He has also performed with the Jordanaires, the original group that provided background vocals for Presley. He sees his job as keeping the legacy of Elvis alive. The powers that be of the Elvis empire, appear to agree with him, and in 2007 Elvis Presley Enterprises got on board and embraced the tribute artist.
Nor does Michaels take this gift of his lightly. “If it wasn’t for Elvis and his music, I wouldn’t have found live entertainment.” Indeed, if Michaels couldn’t do the tribute to Elvis, he would want to stay within the business in some form. “It was through my love and passion of Elvis, that I found the love for the music business. The ‘Man’ has always been gracious to me – without him, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. I wouldn’t be touring and seeing the world if it wasn’t for Elvis and his music.
“It’s a wonderful gift to put smiles on peoples faces and bring to life the image that they once watched on television.”
Return to Grace runs from June 15 to 19.
For tickets and more information: http://www.evenko.ca/en/show/entertainment