The King Symphonic: The Music of Elvis Presley

Reviewer's Rating

Today is the hottest day of the year so far, and the air-conditioned Cadogan Hall is only two-thirds full. Is the weather keeping people away? Have people got confused as to when the rail strike is happening? The Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra has certainly not had an easy ride trying to get this show on the road. Many of the audience with me tonight are rescheduled tickets due to the lost pandemic years. Nevertheless, the gig tonight is a preview of a bigger planned tour for late 2022/early 2023. The Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra will tour with singer Shey Arender, across the major music halls of the UK; “The King Symphonic will take Elvis fans on a symphonic journey of his greatest hits. Audiences will experience a breath-taking performance jam-packed with classics such as Can’t Help Falling in Love, Suspicious Minds, It’s Now or Never and Blue Suede Shoes.”

For a gig about the music of Elvis, it started like any other classical gig. I wondered “oh god, what have I let myself in for a stuffy looking symphonic of 30+ players stripping the rockabilly out of the Pres”. My plus one and guest of honour was my mother, who hasn’t experienced a live orchestra before or live classical music. I could tell she was confused by the formality as well. Then out strides Arender, with the same charisma and warmth of Elvis. He’s not phoney. He’s not an impersonator. This is not some cheesy tribute act with all the usual tropes. It is a tribute and a celebration of the King’s back catalogue. The arrangements (some original, some by the LVSO) are stunning, not overly complicated with flourishes but really showcasing the stunning simplicity of some of the most beautiful love songs of the mid-50s through to the early 70s. A stand out was the arrangement of “Are You Lonesome Tonight”; so heartfelt I could hear the sniffles around me. But when it came to tunes like “suspicious minds” and “jailhouse rock”, any notion of stuffiness was very quickly put out of my mind.

Embarrassingly, my mother was one of the many cat-calling in appreciation. But I think my generation and the younger ones have missed a trick there. We’ve been conditioned to sit in our seats until the appropriate final cymbal crash.

Everyone was out of their seats. They were dancing in the gallery and singing along in pure joy. A hall two-thirds full sounded bustling three tunes in.

That is what the gig was; pure joy. Keep an eye out for the return of Shey Arender and the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra. I think even the King himself would’ve thrust a hip