Tribute acts have always had a bit of a stigma attached to them by some members of the public. While tribute artists make up a huge sub-section of the music industry, there are still some audiences who refuse to see a tribute show, as if attending a concert by such a performer is to somehow besmirch the reputation of the real artist they’re honouring.
If I was ever tempted to think that way, that all changed for me when I attended a Guns N Roses tribute show that was actually more accomplished, polished and entertaining than when I saw the real Guns N Roses recently in concert. Tribute acts succeed I believe because they capture the magic of artists at their absolute peak.
That said, the production Legends in Concert, which has been running in Las Vegas since 1983, goes way above and beyond any previous tribute show I’ve attended. An all-star line up of music icons, this Vegas-based show is touring Melbourne for a second successive year, and judging by the rapturous response from the opening night audience at Melbourne’s Palms at Crown, they will be visiting these shores for many years to come. The casino venue itself is truly an ideal setting for a show direct from Vegas, with its nightclub-like booth seating making you feel like you’ve been instantly transported to that desert gambling haven.
A veritable smorgasbord of iconic entertainers fill the bill for Legends in Concert. Lionel Richie, Tom Jones, Dolly Parton, Freddie Mercury, Cher, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and of course, Elvis Presley are the performers we get to see in the current tour’s incarnation, but these acts are just a fraction of the show’s full Vegas-based roster.
Backed by an incredible band who effortlessly jump between the wildly diverse music and genres these eight performers belt out, and with a tireless crew of incredible backup dancers, there’s certainly plenty to catch the eye on stage at all times.
Kicking off was Lionel Richie, and the performer’s upbeat rendition of some of Richie’s catchier tunes was the perfect opener. Following that, we had an amazing Dolly Parton performance, and this was arguably the closest facsimile to the real thing out of all the acts. Beautifully delivering Dolly’s 9 to 5 and Jolene, this performer absolutely nailed Dolly’s distinctive voice and vocal style.
Next we had Tom Jones, and were treated to a spirited rendition of Jones’ most iconic tunes, the only disappointment being a truncated version of It’s Not Unusual. Such a brilliant track deserves to be performed in full I would argue. Closing out the first act was the incomparable Freddie Mercury, and the performer certainly had energy to spare as he bounded across the stage, mic stand in tow for most of the time. The first act’s closing number, Bohemian Rhapsody, a famously difficult number to perform live, was brilliantly delivered by the show’s entire company of dancers, backup singers and the brilliant Mercury. It’s the sort of song you can’t help but sing along to and the whole show had a party atmosphere with audience members literally out of their seats dancing at times.
Cher opened act two and, of course, the Cher performer was decked out in her iconic If I Could Turn Back Time fishnets-and-leather-jacket outfit. We certainly saw the diversity and range of Cher’s back catalogue, getting to hear both her electronic dance hit Believe and the classic I Got You Babe, the latter of which was a duet with an enthusiastic audience member plucked out of the crowd.
Next was Michael Jackson, and the stage exploded with energy on his arrival. Nailing all of Jacko’s dance moves and with a massive stage presence, a brilliant tribute artist reminded us instantly how nobody could light up a stage like the King of Pop did. It takes talent to embody such a larger than life performer, and this artist is nothing short of amazing. The show’s rendition of Thriller, with the backup dancers decked out in monster makeup and everyone doing those iconic dance moves was a treat to see live.
Whitney Houston was next up and provided a nice change of pace. Given the nature of Houston’s music, her segment was much more sombre than some of the earlier acts, but the performer had the crowd in the palm of her hand as she did a spot-on rendition of Houston’s biggest song, the timeless I Will Always Love You. This was a perfect position for the Houston tribute in between the high energy of the King of Pop and the rousing finale from The King himself.
Elvis performers are not uncommon, and it takes a really talented musician to be able to embody The King, but the Legends in Concert’s Elvis was exceptional as a 1969-era Presley, scoring extra points for wonderfully mimicking The King’s playful banter with the crowd and self-deprecating humour.
Overall, this show is a must see . From the incredible band to the high-energy backup dancers, every element of this show is slick and polished from start to finish. Where else could you see eight of the world’s greatest ever performers on the one bill on the same night? Thankfully, the acts are all so good at embodying their roles that you are likely to forget at times that you’re not seeing the real thing. And that’s one of the highest compliments you could pay to a show such as this.
Melbourne has been blessed to have been visited by the Legends in Concert crew multiple times now, so if you’re a fan of even only a few of the featured artists, then do not miss this show.
Legends in Concert, playing at the Palms at Crown, until January 28.
Tickets available at: http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/Legends-In-Concert-tickets/artist/821398