Elvana: Elvis Fronted Nirvana - O2 Academy, Newcastle 30.09.2017
"So, they play Nirvana songs? With a frontman dressed as Vegas-era Elvis?"
It shouldn't work. Even looking at the words typed out here looks..... well, weird. But yet there's over 1200 people here in the main room of the band's homecoming show at the O2 in Newcastle tonight and we're about to witness something special from Elvana.
Meeting friends at a pub just around the corner of the venue means I catch just a couple of songs from local band Ashes of Iron's set. I seem destined to catch only a few songs of their set every time I catch them playing but I'm always impressed with them. They capture a really cool sounding heavy, sludgy sound without coming across as generic or ripping someone off.
Due to a club night running after the gig, there's a flurry of activity as the crew get the stage ready for the main event. I've staked my spot on the barrier in advance and at 8.15 we get a gentleman walking up to the main mic as the house lights cuts out. "I'd like to introduce four clean cut young men" he tells us in the style of Nirvana's 'In Bloom' video. The intro music of 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' booms over the pa as three chaps walk onstage in blue tuxedos smiling and waving at the audience. The pomp builds to crescendo before a wall of grunge fueled guitar noise swamps us and, yes, there he is! The King strides up to the centre mic, resplendent in white jumpsuit with matching cape. Danny's buzzsaw guitar hack out the familiar chords of 'Aneurysm'. There's a brief microphone issue that means the crowd shout out the opening lines before the King is able to lead us properly.
It's clearly a special show for Elvana and a lot of thought has been put into tonight's performance. Two female backing singers (from Talk Like Tigers) add vocal harmonies over the main set. 'Breed' barges it's way before slipping into a refrain of 'Viva Las Vegas' which doesn't seem out of place.
There's humour all the way through. "Elvis" admits that there are times he doesn't sound like Elvis or Kurt, but more instead like Nick Cage. The band try their best to put off Bass Guy as he plays one of Noviselc's looping bass runs. They just blast through song after song, clearly having fun as they do it.
After a tight 'Territorial Pissings/Suspicious Minds', the band slip off stage while the crew set some chairs up in front of the drum riser and the mood is subtly changed. After a couple of minutes they're seated along the front with the addition of the lovely Gemma Kost on cello. With a smile they're quickly into About A Girl', replicating the famous unplugged in New York. This is followed by a sublime 'Come As You Are', the audience taking the opening lead vocals. 'Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam' sees bassist Rob adding a melodica to the song. We are then treated to 'Dumb' and then their take on David Bowie's 'The Man Who Sold The World'.
After a few moments, the King is back onstage. He informs us that due to the band constantly messing up he's fired them. But we're not to worry as he's ready to introduce us to their replacements. The band are back onstage now, all dragged up in short black dresses and long blonde wigs in bunches. They resemble kicking out time at really rough night club. They are now joined by "Patricia Smear" on second guitar adding a little more vitriol to 'Radio Friendly Unit Shifter', my favourite Nirvana track. They drop in 'On A Plain' before returning to "In Utero" to blast out 'All Apologies' and 'Pennyroyal Tea'. The King grabs a radio mic and disappears into the audience to sing closing song 'Heart Shaped Box'. Audience members are accosting the singer for selfies as mosh pits break out during the chorus. The rest of the band are standing on stage grinning away as they soak in their special night. And then, after nearly two hours, they're gone. Elvana have left the building.
As an audience, we're left happy. The band sounded note perfect and clearly enjoy what they're doing. Are they the most reverential tribute to Nirvana? No, but thy're certainly one of the most fun. I think even old KC would have enjoyed himself tonight. Within a few days Elvana havealready announced dates for a September 2018 tour. Do yourself a favour and pick some up and get ready to enjoy yourself.
Review - Scott Hamilton
Breed/Viva Las Vegas
School/In The Ghetto
Jailhouse Rock/In Bloom
Been A Son
Rape Me/ Love Me Tender
Territorial Pissings/Suspicious Minds
About A Girl
Come As You Are
Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam
The Man Who Sold the World
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
On A Plain
Falling in Love/Heart Shaped Box