Review by Matthew Hocter
With the recent resurgence of interest in Elvis Presley by way of the Baz Luhrmann movie of the same name and the recent passing of Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie, it has been almost commonplace for many an artist and/or show to ride off of the coattails of the success that an artist like Presley can still command, nearly fifty years after his passing.
Edge of Reality is the brainchild of music maestro, Paul Grabowsky along with singers Deborah Conway (Do-Ré-Mi) and Joe Camilleri (The Black Sorrows) and takes a somewhat ambitious dive into some of Presley’s most iconic tracks, reworked and reimagined with the backing of a superb seven piece band.
As Conway opened with “Burning Love,” the singer in an all white pant suit, clearly channelling Elvis in one of his many legendary white jumpsuits, then launched into an excerpt where Elvis himself is clearly mulling over the cruel impact and scrutiny that the media has had on him and his young daughter. It wasn’t immediately clear as to whether Conway was speaking about something personal, but as it came to a close, it became clearer that she was attempting to channel what Elvis had being gone through by speaking in the third person. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get this straightaway with the people either side of me echoing similar sentiments.
Following on with “Hound Dog,” originally sung by big Mama Thornton, but made famous by Presley, Conways version was interesting but the energy that both Thornton and Presley brought to the song was just not achieved by Conway.
On paper, having three of Australia’s greatest musicians come together to celebrate the music of Presley seemed like a no brainer. In reality, something seemed to be missing from this show. As Camilleri then took to the stage and sang the first of his two solo’s, the first song was unrecognizable and at times felt like a mumble and not in an “Elvis drawl” attempt kind of way. The song, “Mystery Train” was saved by Grabowsky’s brilliant piano work and on Camilleri’s second song, “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road,” the ballad seemed slightly more suited to his voice.
As the show progressed, there were more classic Presley tracks like “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender,” with Conway’s version of “Unchained Melody” most definitely being one of, if not, the shows highlight. Both singers took turns in moving in and out of “Suspicious Minds,” often returning back to their music stands to read the words, creating a disconnection between the two. To be brutally honest, at times it felt like we were at the shows rehearsal as more time was spent behind the music stand as opposed to connecting to the audience or each other. If there was thing that Presley did in spades and what his music allowed for, it was the ability for connection between himself and all those around him.
Rounding out the show was one of Presley’s most associated songs, “Viva Las Vegas.” The band really turned up the heat on this song and given that the drummer, Darryn Farrugia was a stand in at the last minute, a massive shout is deserved for just what he brought with half a days notice. At times Edge of Reality felt over ambitious with moments for musical excellence that just never quite got there. This show has so much potential, especially given the names involved, hopefully its full potential will be realized with a little more time.