Ben Portsmouth and Taking Care Of Elvis
Eden Court, Inverness
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THE best Elvis tribute acts are like love letters to the Presley voice, looks, moves and sense of humour.
But few are the full package.
From Ben Portsmouth and team there was an early reminder on Eden Court’s stage backdrop that Ben has been voted the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Act in America.
And for someone less impressive, that could have been a risky move.
But from the start of Thursday’s show – and Ben and the band’s Scottish debut – the search for flaws was pretty futile.
Ben Portsmouth has the voice, the moves, the looks (most impressive in the unforgiving 68 comeback black leather outfit) and the twinkle in the eye - made the most of, you noticed, when the singer often turned side on to the crowd to look his most Elvisy.
When you went home and listed off the songs the Taking Care Of Elvis band had played, there were so many classics we didn't hear - but loads to love about the 30-plus songs we did.
Choosing to sidestep a slavish timeline from the beginning to end of Elvis’s career kept the show fresh and the order of song choices surprising.
The selection was great on the later, vintage-into-Vegas era songs – Burning Love, CC Rider, Always On My Mind, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Way Down, Suspicious Minds, My Way, American Trilogy and Can’t Help Falling In Love.
And the show opened where it should, Ben – appearing onstage in a silver jacket with three from the band - leading us gently from back at the beginning.That’s Alright Mama moved through Good Rockin’ Tonight and I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, to represent the young singer in the 50s.
“This is my first time pretending to be Elvis in Scotland,” Ben told us early on, as if he wasn’t going to let us forget there were two men inside the costumes – Elvis AND Ben from the south coast of England.
Luckily Ben and Elvis share a sense of humour.
“Elvis, I love you!” one female fan yelled out, between the dedications and Always On My Mind.
“You wouldn’t if you knew me …” Ben/Elvis fired back, one eyebrow raised.
But it was hard not to love such a commited performance with some stunning versions of songs as different as The Wonder Of You, In The Ghetto, Hurt and the pelvis-thrusting thrash of Suspicious Minds.
Yet probably the song of the night was one of a couple that Ben admitted Elvis had never sung in his life - the Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody and his stunning version of Pavarotti opera showpiece Nessun Dorma, maybe just a little bit shouty at the top end.
Ben even read the Italian lyrics handed to him by Stetson-hatted manager “Colonel Parker” in an Elvisified pronunciation to convince you it could have been a natural fit for the King, if he'd lived to test out that always maturing voice.
It’s not everyone who would have had the confidence to rewrite Elvis’s life – if only to add in a few fantasy song choices.
But when you’re taking care of Elvis's business as well as Ben and his band do, you probably earn the right to depart from the script to make sure the legend gets all shook up once in a while.