They say the heart wants what the heart wants, and it does. Mine wants music. Craves it, digs it, loves it, adores it, must must have it because it dips down into the very soul of who and how and what I am. Yes music, but most of all? Elvis Presley music. It’s my air. I need it to survive. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing like that feeling of sitting in the very front row, waiting for the show to start -waiting for Elvis Presley’s music to once again give wings to your soul – the creak and luxury of the leather seats, the smell of theatre and the dim heavy dark red velvet stage curtains, majestic, just a few feet from the stage in front of you. Heartbeat, heartbeat, you can feel the anticipation of the audience, it’s in your chest – and it’s the energy of Elvis Presley in the air. Ahhh there’s nothing like it. And me? I travelled, by plane, all the way to Adelaide to be there. From Melbourne. Yes that’s right, this crazy goose travelled further south in the middle of a cold winter. Am I nuts or what. Yeah well it’s these crazy out of freaking nowhere adventures, that keep me sane.
Do you know what I love about Mark Anthony? I love that when he walks onstage, you become part of it. From the first moment, it’s like a shift in reality and suddenly it’s The International Hotel, Vegas, 1969 and from the first fade of lights and the first screams of ecstasy; from the first realisation that the music is about to hit, he draws you in and you are part of it. There is something completely Elvis-esque about Mark Anthony. He captures the very essence of the man, and then teases us with it, all lithe and mean – that sneer, that half giggle – it’s Elvis Personified, oh Lordy, and tonight he’s in the stunning red and black three piece Cossack suit, pure Vegas ’69, bathed under stagelight and it’s perfect. And the band hits it and he starts singing and moving, and the backup girls are digging it and singing high-pitched harmony, and he’s got us, every freaking second, he’s got us – and every freaking second is pure heaven Elvis music bliss.
He gives us CC Rider, the way it was originally done, before the tradition of the 70’s had set in. It’s raw and new – not what most of the crowd expected – and oh what a delightful shock. This is the breakout Elvis, fresh from the Comeback Special, Elvis NOW before he was documented in That’s The Way It Is – this is Elvis re-discovering who he is and what he’s made of, and Mark Anthony is not just playing the role, he’s living it and he’s taking us along for the ride, and for an Elvis Presley fan, there is nothing better. The energy, the band, the light show, the music, THE MUSIC – it’s Rubberneckin’ groovy cool classy like only Elvis can – the Memphis Flash all grown up and how. I don’t know what it feels like or how many hundreds of hours it’s taken him to be up on that stage, doing what he does so freaking flawlessly, like it’s second nature, but I do know that from down here in the front row, he is the closest we’ll get to the real deal, and I love that he’s given this to us. I love that he loves the man so much – so obvious from the way he gives a billion percent to every note, every gesture, every move and nuance – I love that it’s a humble, genuine, respectful tribute; I love that he gets it technically right, vocally right, and that those moves of his not only replicate but resonate the real Elvis, to a standard I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I love it! I love it so much.
For the second half of the show, it’s Elvis 70, the white jumpsuited svelte young superstar that the audience know and adore. Now it’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mystery Train, Polk Salad Annie and hands down the best version of Just Pretend I have ever heard. Ever. Perfectly captured and so beautifully sung, it’s the entire threatre as one – magic threads connecting us all. Mark Anthony is a master at what he does, but it’s not just about the performance. It’s about the little things: recognising the old man who’s dancing on his own in the corner, playfully grabbing his hat, making us laugh and making him feel special; it’s the way he wanders down to the back rows during Love Me Tender, reaching back into the crowd who reach out to him; it’s the humble acknowledgment of one of the best backing bands out there, the gratitude, the thankfulness, the genuineness about Mark Anthony that makes his time on stage so special.
Yes I love the performer and the performance, but most of all, I love the glimpses he gives us. We know he’s not Elvis (and he knows it too), but here and there, there are those brief moments when we swear to God, THIS is exactly how it would feel to be at an Elvis Presley show, THIS is what the magic of the International Hotel would have been like, THIS is what it would have felt like to be in the presence of The King onstage. He takes us there. What an incredible thing to be able to share with an audience. When the night finally ends and the red curtain falls (and we die a little inside), we take away something more than just the memory of a great performance. We take away a little bit of the magic of Elvis Presley himself.
The heart wants what the heart wants.
Mark Anthony – thank you for the music.
[Linda Memphis, July 2017]
© 2017 Linda Memphis