Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
Fans from around the world converged on Graceland in Memphis this year – as they do every January – for an Elvis Presley birthday celebration that included gospel and orchestral renditions of “Blue Suede Shoes” and other greatest hits from the King of Rock & Roll.
It all looked a bit sedate, judging from the 2012 Birthday Celebration video, but here in Nippertown, the Lustre Kings feted the 77th anniversary of Elvis’ birth – as they do every January – in true rock and roll style, with a series of hip-swiveling, rafter-shaking tributes to the King.
A run of nine Lustre Kings Elvis Birthday Bashes this year – including celebrations at The Linda in Albany, the Ale House in Troy and a packed Rodeo Bar in New York City – culminated on Saturday night with a throw-down at Daisy Baker’s in Troy.
The Lustre Kings (featuring frontman/guitarist Mark Gamsjager, bassist Mike “Chops” LaConte and drummer Jason Smay) brought along lots of homegrown “special guests,” including rockabilly frontman Johnny Rabb, singer/guitarist Ian Carlton, keyboardist Michael Kelley, bassist Doc Scanlon, guitarist Graham Tichy and drummer Jeff Michael.
No Elvis tribute would be replete without kitsch, and there was plenty of that: a velvet Elvis tapestry behind the stage, a jumpsuit-wearing Elvis action figure that Rabb shook in front of the microphone, LaConte’s beautiful blue flame-emblazoned upright bass that he played, at one point, on top of the bar.
But most important was the music, of course, which Gamsjager and friends played with all the skill and joy warranted Elvis classics from the early Sun Studio days to the Vegas years, including hot renditions of “Little Sister,” “All Shook Up,” “Just Because,” “One Night,” “Burning Love,” “Crawfish” and “Suspicious Minds.”
It was a reminder of how vital the King was and still is today – and how lucky we are to have such talented local musicians in our midst.