Elvana is becoming rather popular recently and has even been dubbed as ‘The world’s finest Elvis-fronted tribute to Nirvana’ by Kerrang. The idea of Elvis and Kurt Cobain doing a set together is either a genius or a ridiculous one. Who knows if Kurt Cobain even listened to Elvis? Perhaps the two would have done a duo together eventually if they were both still alive? Maybe, but though we know early rock and roll will forever be connected to the world of rock music historically by influence, it’s actually pretty hard to imagine what early rock and roll and grunge music would sound like literally mixed together as a sonic soup. Genre mash-ups have been gaining popularity recently and becoming more and more ridiculous by the minute, and Elvana is no exception.
If, like us, you were wondering why the hell a long-haired, glittery Elvis impersonator who looks a bit like Dave Grohl in sunglasses is fronting a band covering Nirvana songs, your answer is no one knows. But, we found it did make for a highly entertaining show and surprisingly was actually a fantastic tribute to and remembrance of both music legends, respectively.
As everybody shuffled into the Marble Factory Bristol and found their seats, it was impossible to tell how many of the crowd swung more towards Nirvana and how many were long-time Elvis fans. Perhaps a little of both, perhaps a little of neither, perhaps some were just there for the sheer comedy of it all. Regardless, the room filled up quite nicely and people seemed keen to get rocking, thrusting, laughing, or all three. Oddly, this was a seated gig, which made it feel more like a theatre, but it gave you a welcome break from having to work your way through the crowd to find a decent spot. The stage was adorned with Lilies, reminiscent of Nirvanas’ iconic ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ performance in 1993 in which Kurt Cobain had famously requested it look and feel similar to a funeral service. Of course, it was probably just a coincidence, but the seating arrangement spookily added to the memorial atmosphere Kurt had intended for the show.
After the audience was seated, two identical twin sisters with blonde bobbed hair, dressed elaborately in pink with electronic keyboards and a pastel green Fender Stratocaster appeared on the stage, joyfully smiling at the audience. They fill the room with a harmonious blend of 80’s music, pop, and elements of dance with some pretty amazing duo vocal harmonies. Woven into the mix as well was some impressive sound design and effects which was unexpected given their highly feminine stage personas. Think Haim and Shura goes Mad Max soundtrack. The two are also the backing singers in Elvana for their Autumn tour and this was their side project, ‘Talk like Tigers’.
After a brief interlude, Elvis arrives on the stage dressed eccentrically in an outfit so shiny and sequined it would put any disco ball to shame (and also probably blind some unsuspecting victim driving down the road in broad daylight). Hunches about Elvanas’ entertainment factor turned out to be correct. The visual manifestation of Elvis singing Nirvana songs is all at once confusing, ridiculous and hilarious and is compacted by Elvis’s exaggerated stage persona, endless jokes, and personal stories which are a big hit with the audience.
Despite the obvious entertainment factor of the evening though, there was also a serious element to the musical performance. It was impossible, for example, not to notice the skill of the musicians individually. The acoustic guitarists dressed in burgundy velvet suits are exceptional and from time to time are glimpsed with the same seriousness and concentration on their faces as that of a concert performance. The cellist even looks and dresses like she is more part of a classical orchestra than a joke tribute band. Elvis himself also has a brilliant, amplified voice that shines especially brightly during the Nirvana songs. The song order closely mimics the setlist of the beloved unplugged Nirvana gig, which genuine fans of Nirvana take seriously and the decoration of the stage shows a clear reverence and love for both artists. Most noticeable though was the fantastic delivery of the original songs, most notably the Nirvana numbers which we think do the band a great justice.
Yes, the band is funny, entertaining, and clearly does not take itself seriously, but it doesn’t discredit either artist in doing so either. In fact it did the opposite. It has to be said that a bad delivery of this type of comedy and the songs in a live performance like this could easily evoke criticism from serious fans of both Elvis and Nirvana. But because of the brilliant musical delivery of the original songs and the clear reverence for the artists, it was impossible to draw such a conclusion this evening.
So, while you might not be able to fathom how on earth an Elvis impersonator and a Nirvana tribute band fit together musically, and despite the lead singer being flamboyantly ridiculous on stage, Elvana are somehow managing to pull it off without discrediting either of the two musical legends, and have created a fantastically entertaining, unique show. And for that, we can only respect them.
Elvis – Lead singer and Impersonator
Danny Cobain – Guitarist
Rob Novoselic –
Bobby Grohl –
Charlotte and Stephanie – Backing Vocals (Talk like Tigers).
Review: Jasmine Lamport
Photography: Emma Painter