Elvis was everywhere Wednesday at the House of Blues--at least in spirit, as a capacity crowd celebrated what would have been Presley's 62nd at the 11th annual Elvis Birthday Bash. Presented by local impresarios Art Fein and Ronnie Mack, the event (whose proceeds benefited the Union Rescue Mission) is about honoring Presley's music and memory, and while it was tough to spot any blue suede shoes, evidence of the King was all around: sideburns, pompadours, slick outfits, stand-up basses and more "baby, baby" crooning than you could shake a stick at.
The local roots and rockabilly communities turned out in force, both on and off stage, but there were some new participants, including former Paul Revere & the Raiders bassist Keith Allison, "singing astrologer" Harvey Sid Fisher and longtime session guitar great Albert Lee.
If Presley were hanging around somewhere, he must have felt the love. What he may not have felt was the passion. Most of the 40-plus acts offered fairly reverent, usually competent (if sometimes vocally weak) versions of Elvis favorites. These reminded us that Presley's fusing of hillbilly music to the blues helped translate those American folk forms into pop and preserve them forever.
But Elvis was also about hip-grinding, lip-curling, butt-shaking sexuality--and there was precious little of that on display Wednesday.
But never mind. Elvis' spirit shone brightly anyway, burning behind fired-up sets by the Barry Holdship Band and 11-year Bash veterans the Rockin' Rebels.
Most memorable, however, were the surreal moments, from Weird Al Yankovic bounding on stage to announce the first appearance anywhere in 10 years of the original Knack, who exuberantly performed three songs, to the red-sequined Johnny Legend's "Flaming Star" to Florida Slim's campy "Viva Las Vegas," complete with costumed dancing girls.