CONCERT REVIEW: Shawn Klush shows ‘Burning Love’ for Elvis in authentic Wilkes-Barre performance
It was a triumphant homecoming for Pittston native Shawn Klush as he performed his “Elvis Tribute Spectacular” for a second sold-out night at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Klush, an internationally famous, award-winning Elvis tribute artist, faithfully recreates the magic of Elvis Presley’s concert years of 1969 to 1977. Klush looks and sounds so much like Presley, for about 90 minutes it truly feels like Elvis is back in the building.
For the Keystone Grand Ballroom performance, Klush was backed by the Sweet Inspirations featuring original member Estelle Brown, who sang with Elvis in concert hundreds of times and appeared on hit records by Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Van Morrison, the Bee Gees, and dozens of others.
After Brown and Portia Griffin treated the crowd to an inspired rendition of the group’s 1968 hit “Sweet Inspiration,” the nine-piece backing band began “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which traditionally signaled that Presley was about to take the stage.
Klush, who was named the first-ever “Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist” by Elvis Presley Enterprises on Aug. 16, 2007 – the 30th anniversary of Presley’s death – took the stage with “See See Rider.” A high-energy version of Presley’s 1972 hit “Burning Love” followed.
Decked out in an exact replica of one of Presley’s famous white jumpsuits, Klush handed out black and red scarves to his adoring female fans throughout “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Polk Salad Annie,” and pretty much the rest of the show. During the medley of “Teddy Bear” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” he tossed little teddy bears into the crowd.
Much like a 1970s concert by Presley, Klush sang fast, short versions of 1950s hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog” and spent more time on knockout covers of then-popular hits like Three Dog Night’s “Never Been to Spain” and Joe South’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”
Klush also dug deep into the King’s catalog, singing songs such as “Kentucky Rain,” “Always on My Mind,” and “Way Down,” which were seldom, if ever, performed by Presley in concert.
Unlike the real Elvis Presley, who never performed outside of North America, Klush has taken Presley’s still-popular music all over the world. He has performed with many of Presley’s colleagues, such as DJ Fontana (Elvis’ original drummer), Joe Guercio (Elvis’ orchestra conductor), bass player Jerry Scheff of the TCB Band, JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, the Imperials and the Jordanaires, and has appeared with Elvis’ friends Jerry Schilling and Joe Esposito.
Klush also won tribute competitions in Montreal, Nashville (where he was named “Best Concert Elvis”) and in the United Kingdom, where 6.5 million viewers on BBC1 voted him the “World’s Greatest Elvis.” He has starred as Elvis in the “Legends in Concert” shows in Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, Branson, and Atlantic City and was named “Worldwide Ambassador of Elvis” at the Las Vegas Hilton, where Presley played numerous times in the 1970s.
He also portrayed Elvis in the miniseries “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” which aired on CBS and VH1, performed during Elvis Tribute Artist week on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” and played Elvis earlier this year on HBO’s “Vinyl,” a series set in the music world of the 1970s that was produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger.
A fantastic duet of “O Sole Mio” by Griffin and “It’s Now or Never” by Klush was dedicated to the survivors of the recent earthquake in Italy, while a poignant performance of “I’ll Remember You” was dedicated to Presley, whom Klush referred to as the “greatest entertainer the world has ever seen.”
Klush earned standing ovations with his performances of “My Way,” “An American Trilogy,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” toward the end of the show and had the whole audience singing along to his fantastic rendition of “Suspicious Minds.”
In true Presley fashion, the show ended with “Can’t Help Falling in Love” from “Blue Hawaii” and there was no encore.
“Thank you so much for coming out tonight,” Klush said following his performance. “If you ever want me to come back here, don’t hesitate to call me.”
Photos courtesy of Mohegan Sun Pocono