RUSSIA’N’ROLL

Moscow calling again ! Dear Readers, I have for all of you and especially for Elvis Presley fans (how many regular readers of this Magazine are NOT Elvis fans !), a story about a relatively recent band in Russia who are creating huge waves in Russia on the rock’n’roll scene.

They performed for our dance co-operative in Moscow for the first time on 5th May at the Mellow Yellow Club. They went down a storm. Some of the photos you can see were taken at the concert. And the name of the band ? “Elvis on Tour.”

I asked Masha May, the group’s manager and keyboard player, to provide the story of the band for us. She chose Denis Gurianov, a longtime Elvis Presley fan in Moscow, to tell you the story. So here it is; over to you Denis !

There are a lot of famous Russian bands that have been successfully performing on the rock’n’roll scene here for many years and even decades. And at some point you might have thought that maybe time has stopped, no new bands appear and young people are no longer interested in this kind of music. So today I have a surprise!

These young people of today in Russia did not encounter the difficulties of the older generation. For this older generation, there is a phrase over here of rock’n’roll “on bones”. It means that in Soviet times it was almost impossible to buy records of Western artists. Music lovers had to get them from undercover on the street and copy them artisanly on available materials, which were often some used X-ray film. In other words, it was much more difficult for them to be able to access and enjoy rock’n’roll music, than it is for the later generation of rock’n’rollers.

For this new generation it is easier. They never had to try and catch illegal BBC radio broadcasts over the airwave – banned in the Soviet Union. They could already buy any records in music shops or even download them on the Internet. They weren’t kicked out of the Komsomol like the older rockers were, for their love of rock’n’roll (the Komsomol was the main and compulsory youth communist organisation in the old Soviet Union), because this organisation no longer exists. Despite the much greater choice of musical styles available in Russia today, compared to the old days, do you think this has made young people forget about the existence of rock’n’roll? Answer: Niet (Russian for “No”).

During the last year a new bright name has appeared on the Russian rock’n’roll sky – “Elvis on Tour”. These are guys (to be precise, four young men plus a lady), who grew up in post-Soviet Russia and yet have a great reverence for the legendary music of the 1950s-1970s, in particular for the heritage of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock’n’Roll. You will be hearing more about the success of this band in the future!

Richard organised their performance at his dance party recently (a few photos that you can see were taken at this concert), where some of the guests saw Elvis on Tour for the first time. The reaction of the audience was intense! During one of the lyrical songs an unknown lady approached the stage and watched the show with rapt attention when vocalist Dmitry (Elvis) Akmatov held her hand as a sign of greeting – exactly as it happened at Elvis’ live concerts.

This Magnificent Five (vocals – Dmitry Akmatov, guitar – Murat Mamizhev, keys – Masha May, bass – Yuri Saveliev, drums – Nikolay Denisov) have set themselves an ambitious goal – to make an authentic tribute for true connoisseurs of Elvis Presley. Using concert and album videos and audio recordings, they recreate song arrangements from different eras and bring it all to life in a live show. So the audience can experience wild rock’n’roll and romantic ballads of early Elvis, hear live rarely performed compositions of the 60s (the time when Elvis was actively filming in Hollywood films), as well as famous hits from the late period of the King’s work.

Unlike different musicians who also perform immortal Elvis’ hits along with other rock’n’roll stars’ songs, Elvis on Tour is kind of a mono-project – they play only Elvis and nothing but Elvis, but they do it with love and down to the smallest detail. My colleagues and I have been to their performances more than once and it’s always amazing – sometimes we can see the tricks that we remember from the videos (we have watched and listened to a lot of both official and unofficial materials (so-called bootlegs) related to Elvis’ work, so we immediately notice and note similar moments. We hear live exactly those instrumental parts of our favourite songs that our ears are waiting for, but which went down in history with the King’s death. And we could also mention varied and not quite standard play lists for the concerts. Not all Elvis tribute artists and impersonators dare to use songs from different Elvis’ creative periods in their concert repertoire. I can’t imagine how much labour one has to put into it to make such a product, but it’s worth it !

OK, Thanks Denis. We’ll pause the story there and continue the tale of the Elvis project – Russian style- next month. Stay tuned !