One step away from the real thing

It's one for the money, two for the show: Stephen Michael Kabakos as Elvis

3 Steps to Heaven

New Alexandra Theatre 

*****

There is no doubt that within Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield’s, greatest Rock and Roll Tours, that they have struck upon a somewhat successful formula when it comes to delivering the tribute act.

Perhaps it’s just down the sheer professionalism of the band and performers or the  well-produced sound or the simple fact that you get more than one act as a headliner. Whatever it is, its working and convinced a full audience to come out on a wet Monday night in January to part with their hard earned cash.

I say that because the tribute act is normally attended by die-hard fans of a single act but here we have a cross section of people joyously revelling in the authentic atmosphere of the great Rock and Roll years.

3 Steps To Heaven is a pretty realistic recreation of a concert that never was, featuring Elvis, Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. There is no convoluted saga of their life stories just a simple introduction and then on with the music and hit after hit.

There have been several changes to the line up playing these icons of the Rock and Roll era in the past few years, but on this tour Elvis is played by the world renowned Stephen Michael Kabakos.

Three to get ready: the legendary Presley, Orbison and Holly

Blessed with a striking resemblance to the King, he has spent a lifetime crafting his act and with the White suit and Rhinestones, sound and mannerisms it’s the closest thing you will get to seeing Elvis in the flesh.

Ed Handoll took on the Buddy Holly persona and again if you closed your eyes it was like he was there. Not only did he sound like Buddy but also played guitar on all of his hits. Buddy was one of the first rockers to involve an orchestra in his sound and recreating that on electronic keyboards was the only let down to a few of the numbers.

Finally Damien Edwards took on The Big O, Roy Orbison. It was acknowledged on the night that Mr Orbison’s work is much more than the four piece pop combo and verse chorus arrangement with complex songs that build to a powerful crescendo. Achieving this balance was not always made on the night and some of the vocals were lost but where Edwards is really impressive is vocally, when he opens up for the big notes.

The catalogue of brilliant songs that are played on the night is amazing and more than once you are side-tracked by not realising that one or two of them were penned by the artist singing them.

The Show ends with Kabakos performing songs post Elvis’s, 68 special comeback years and you will not see a better performance perhaps outside of Las Vegas.

At the close he invites Buddy and Roy to join him for the finale and the combination of the three of them on stage is that powerful that it might have well all been the real thing. To 18-01-14

Jeff Grant

3 Steps to Heaven will have two more performances on Saturday, with a Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran show tonight and Wednesday and Winter Dance Party with Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens on Thursday and Friday

Now go cat, go

****

HE’S back in the building, but Elvis ‘The King’ Presley is in danger of losing his crown in this tribute concert to three American rock ‘n’ roll super stars.

The man with the vibrating pelvis is played by Canadian Stephen Michael Kabakos who certainly resembles the legend, but Herefordshire’s Ed Handoll is the real star here.

He quickly lights up the show playing Buddy Holly, the singer in the horn-rimmed specs, tragically killed in an air crash, aged just 22.

Handoll has appeared in the touring Buddy Holly Story,he has played the guitar since he was 11 and fits the part like a glove, especially in songs like Peggy Sue and Raining in My Heart, while Kabakos seems much more Elvis when he dons that spectacular white suit after the interval.

Damien Edwards, in the shades, plays Roy Orbison in a show billed as rock ‘n’ rolls’ ultimate concert. The four musicians on stage are excellent, especially Dan Graham on the drums.

3 Steps to Heaven will have two more performances on Saturday, with a Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran show on Wednesday and Winter Dance Party with Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens on Thursday and Friday in what is claimed to be the greatest ‘rock’ tour of them all.

Paul Marston

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