Horns & Background Singers Bring Back The King’s Live Performances
If you “Can’t Help Falling In Love” with tribute bands, and get “All Shook Up” when you see Elvis, then you’ll be howling like a “Hound Dog” when you hear Graceband.
Except Graceband is not really a tribute band to the King. Instead, it’s a tribute to the grand production and shows that were Elvis Presley concerts.
Graceband is a 12-piece band complete with horns that performs shows in bars and live music venues up and down the Southern California coast, as well as private parties and corporate events.
But not in Las Vegas. (More on that in a moment.)
Replicating The Big Band Show Of Elvis’ Concerts
“In his shows, Elvis had a big band, great backup singers and incredible musicians,” said Graceband co-founder Chris Maddox, who dons a white jump suit and cape to become Elvis during the band’s performances. “It made for big, full music and that kind of blows me away.
“Our band is a celebration of those shows. We’re not impersonators. I’m not an Elvis impersonator. I’m just Elvis in the band. And we put on a show that is a celebration of Elvis and his concerts.”
In fact, Maddox would not be doing Elvis at all were it not for a moment in high school. A heavy metal fan, he and two friends formed a rock cover band but could not do the heavy guitar licks and voice ranges of, say, Guns & Roses. So one day, at a school fair, he recorded “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Well, a girl loved it and as several musicians (and others) have discovered, when a girl loves something you do, you stick with it like glue.
The band’s show starts the way many Elvis concerts did, with the “CC Rider” intro and includes most of the King’s big hits (“Heartbreak Hotel,” “Suspicious Minds,” etc.) but also mixes in some of Maddox’s love for heavy metal with Elvis-type takes on music from Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. All in that big-band style.
Maddox describes the shows as “a 90-minute cardio workout with lots of dancing and very high energy. It has to be because we want the crowd to be into it. Our energy level is about an 11 because if you want the crowd to get to a level of, say, a 7-8, then you need to have a higher energy level.”
The focus is on Elvis’ concerts in the 70s when he was in his prime. And in his prime shape. In other words, no Fat Elvis.
And even tho he’s now married, Maddox does have fun with the ladies in the crowd, as did the real Elvis. “Yes, I hand out scarves,” he said.
Graceband is playing Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA, on Sunday, Jan. 31. It also regularly plays the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, CA, one of the top live music venues in San Diego County, as well as fairs and festivals.
But you won’t see the band in Vegas, where you can’t walk down The Strip without running into some type of Elvis performer. This is a part-time gig, mainly just for kicks, for the band members, all of whom have day jobs.
The band consists of co-founder Ryan Roelen (lead guitar), Eric “Bull” Durham (rhythm guitar), George “The Animal” Steele (drums), Danny Behringer (bass), Scott “Skittles” May (rhythm & acoustic), backup singers Kate Walker and “Sweet” Caroline McLean and on the horns John “A/C” Saffery, Hugo “Bones” Vazquez, Robert “The Godfather” Mukai and Jimmie “Big Daddy” Williams.
“You won’t come into my house and find an Elvis shrine,” Maddox said. “We all like him but he was just a good ‘ol boy who was having fun.”
So, too, does the crowd when Graceband graces the stage. Because soon the people are “caught in a trap” that is an Elvis live show.
Graceband website, schedule & booking info: www.gracebandlives.com.