Edge of Reality

(Created by Paul Grabowsky, Adelaide Festival Centre, 14 June 2023)

Elvis Presley and Cabaret? But of course! If you Can Dream, avoid that Kentucky Rain, have a Little Less Conversation, perhaps have you Always on Our Mind, and do it My Way, it could work. And this night, it kinda-did, care of Paul Grabowsky’s absolutely clever re-working of the arrangements of the King’s greatest hits (and some lesser mortals), with a terrific jazz/rock/fusion band (piano, guitar, cello, clarinet, trumpet, fiddle, drums, glockenspiel?) and starring celebrated Australian vocalists Joe Camilleri and Deborah Conway, Edge of Reality is a unique tribute to Elvis Presley that the King would have liked, although some of his fans would not..

Elvis would have asked for the songs to be sped-up, but we liked most of the arrangements (see below), which Conway and Camilleri sang lustily and with affection (though not always to the requisite note or lyric). At one stage, early in the evening, Conway tried a dramatic riff of the King, in his Vegas cups, complaining about the press reporting him as “strung out.” As that soliloquy was neither developed, nor reflective of the sad truth, it stuck TVC as passing strange. But let that pass.


Conway sang great versions of “Burning Love” and “Hound Dog” and then Joe gave us a smoking version of “Mystery Train,” (one for aficionados) and then “True Love Travels on a Gravel Road” (one for gnostics). At this stage, one wag in the crowd shouted “Where’s Elvis?“, to which we wanted to reply in the words of Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black: “Elvis isn’t dead. He just went home.” But before he went home:

There was Deb Conway with a jaunty version of “Don’t Be Cruel,” and a great cocktail-lounge version of “Love Me Tender.” Then a real highlight: a saxophone duo leading into an almost unbearably slow, dark, weird and wonderful version of “Edge of Reality” by Camilleri, worthy of Peter Gabriel in his most imperious mood, and then Conway gave us a jazzy Copacabana version of “That’s All Right.” Joe weighed in with a truncated “In the Ghetto,” a funky “One Night With You” and then Deb attempted “Unchained Melody” which would strain anybody. Joe then did a slow-hand version of the classic “Always on my Mind,” and Deb did the classic “Suspicious Minds” to a great rocking beat, but surprisingly sexless (is is misogynistic to complain that a lass can’t sing the songs of the quintessential lad? Discuss). And the mangled line “Let’s not let a good thing die” was itself mangled.

But the encore was a great hard rocker, “Viva Las Vegas” and then Elvis left the building. A very worthy effort!


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