The King Symphonic, presumably timed to complement the recent movie biopic, is a concert of about 25 Elvis Presley songs, mostly well known, performed by the “Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra”. This is actually a 30-piece ensemble, heavily amplified, and not to be confused with the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra which IS a symphony orchestra giving ‘classical’ concerts throughout the year in the USA. In fact, sound design and balance was one of the problems of this concert, the overall effect being “tinny” in quality, and some players being over-amplified, such as the otherwise excellent kit percussionist, who dominated proceedings too much. It was also strange that the pianist, who had several solo opportunities and, like the rest of the orchestra, was very competent, could barely be seen. The orchestra was only given one number to itself as an instrumental, which was a shame, as, sound-wise, this was very successful, and demonstrated how capable this presumably “pick-up” band actually is.
In addition to the orchestra, there was also an uncredited backing group of three who, just after the interval, were given by far the most successful number of the concert: Viva Las Vegas, showcasing the unnamed male singer who was truly superb, having the true Elvis style as well as a gorgeous singing voice and presence. The audience’s enthusiastic response to this was more than justified, but unfortunately, that was the only time the group was allowed to perform by itself!
The concert was conducted by British artiste, Toby Cruse, who practised a very clear mirror conducting beat and must have been exhausted by the end of the evening! Most of the effective orchestral arrangements seem to have been put together by the orchestra’s American conductors Steve Rawlins and Uli Geissendoerfer.
The Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra itself was formed in 1985, mainly as a ‘pop’ recording orchestra, and was purchased by its present CEO, Shea Arender, in 2017. Arender performs most of the songs in the concert, not, he told us, trying to impersonate ‘The King’ but just trying to put them over. It was a shame that much of his performance seemed to be directed either to the front row of the stalls, or to stage left. In addition, the sound balance meant that it was usually difficult to hear him above the orchestra. In theory, the concert was supposed to take us through Elvis’ life and music in chronological order, but, although one cannot question his enthusiasm, Shea’s knowledge of Elvis’ career seems to be thin. A writer and director would have helped the links between numbers.
However, many in the audience obviously enjoyed the evening, and, by the end, were dancing in the aisles! The King Symphonic is supposed to be touring the UK in early 2023.
Review by John Groves
Shea Arender and the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra in a symphonic celebration of the music of Elvis Presley!
A southern American native, Shea performs and narrates Elvis’ life in music, including the Vegas years, the movie years and the many hits in between!
The music will inspire you and Elvis’ story told through Shea will touch your heart as you sit back and enjoy unique symphonic arrangements of unforgettable songs, including ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘It’s Now or Never’, ‘You Gave Me a Mountain’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel/Teddy Bear’, ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.
In its UK debut, the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra is joined by its principal guest conductor Toby Cruse in this super-charged journey of musical power!
Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra
Shea Arender voice
Toby Cruse conductor
Friday 17th June 2022
Duration: approx. 2 hours (incl. interval)