10 March 2014

Elvis is in the house

It's the closest I'll ever get to Elvis. Jacqueline Feilich was at the Artists Shed as the King singing the Stax era, early 70s, and she was stunning. To my ears, this was Elvis. Strange, being a woman, but she had the range, the phrasing, the pitch, the tone, the right embellishments. There's an industry out there around Elvis but with lots of overweight guys in Las Vegas-era costumes. Jacqueline had a dignified black presence although her website has some pics with the colour garb. I like to think of Elvis as the young and poor white singing genuinely black rather than his sad later life. JF had appeared at the Artists Shed a few months back and for some reason I couldn't get there. This time I heard some mutterings that the songs she sang were not so well known. JF explained that Elvis had sold off his back catalogue in the early-70s and collected new material to go into Stax Studios, Memphis TN, and record. Apparently these tracks were dispersed over several albums so not particularly noted, but they were great. I loved the show from the first notes. JF sang solo against a recorded backing track, presumably from her band or CD. From the top, this was great R&B as I understand it with an authentic voice. You couldn't help but groove from the first notes. Then through country styles (doesn't he do that well!) and gospel influences and wonderful ballads. Stax was not his early, sexy days, but this was a mature artist with great support playing for himself. There was a TV downstairs playing the Las Vegas show, and this too was replete with great backing musos. It's like this with the Sinatras and Presleys. They may age along with their voices, but their reputation and money buys the best backing. I knew very few of these tunes - perhaps just Chuck Berry's Promised land and Guitar man - but it didn't matter. Great, heavily grooving music and richly worked voice and that magical black essence in a white body. One thing took me back. Apparently Elvis took over the whole of Stax with his own artists and sound men. Not sure what's left if you do that - just the room and the gear. It's strange this thing about tribute bands, but I've liked a few. Beatnix were stunning (they all sang their right lines and played their right instruments, so Beatnix/Paul played a left handed Hofner and sing Paul's parts!) and I enjoyed Bjorn Again. It's not just copying, but also a mark of respect and love when done by the best. Certainly you have to involve yourself deeply in the music, because there are plenty of fans who will know every line. Jacqueline Feilich is all that, and locally based (Sydney) and internationally respected. She's back at the Artists Shed in September and she's good. As near to authentic as I can image.

But that's not all. Jacqueline's daughter, Ruby Feilich, did a warmup on Tina Turner. Hey, what's love gotta do with it. Not quite as polished or professional as her Mum, but not at all bad and great fun. And from a schoolkid. This time we knew the tunes: Nutbush, What's love gotta do with it, Proud Mary, Private dancer and the footy anthem, Simply the best. Great fun and busily energetic. Now to learn the footsteps for Nutbush - not that it's so hard.

Jacqueline Feilich sang Elvis' Stax sessions and Ruby Feilich sang Tine Turner hits at the Artist Shed in association with the Elvis 21 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

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