MIKELANGELO – The Balkan Elvis – Live and Intimate Tour. Polish Club, Saturday 9th May, 2015
by Little Dove
If you like music and you live in Canberra, chances are you know the slick black quiff, hip shaking, heavy breath and deep croon that signify our very own multi talented Mikelangelo. Though he has not been a local for sometime, his consistent gigs here are a tribute to his love of the capital “Canberra, you are beautiful. You’ve got it all going on.” Ever the inventor, tonight he introduces us to Eastern Bloc Rock from his alter ego Johnny Presley AKA The Balkan Elvis. This is the first music gig at the Polish Club since reopening it’s doors after an 18 month hiatus. And it does not disappoint.
In this intimate cabaret style show, Johnny regales tales majestic of a meagre adolescence in Eastern Europe, and his rise to fame in the shadow of his “twin from the Americas”. He and a bunch of friends first saw Elvis when they snuck across town to peek through a window to look at some crazy thing they had heard about – the television. Johnny was hooked on King Creole from the moment he saw him thrusting on the tiny screen.
Mikelangelo cleverly interweaves local references within the stories, and we feel special to be noted. He is funny and self deprecating. One moment when looking theatrically lost as to why we were all laughing, he began a fake laugh, saying in his thick Dubrovnic drawl “I hear you laughing now. And I am laughing too. So I am laughing with you”. It was sweet and funny.
The way he looks is extraordinary, and I often find myself a little star struck in his very large presence and arching eyebrows. From his shiny stripey suit, to his intense stare, to his red suede shoes, this man bedazzles.
And then there’s the music. For the first twenty minutes I can barely move my eyes off his guitar and it’s wielding hands. I am generally entranced and astounded by any musician when they play well. The rolling, tapping, plucking, banging, blowing. It’s frickin amazing. Mikelangelo’s guitar swings and sways in unison like a body part as he moves in ownership of the stage.
His clever reinterpretations of Elvis songs are full of humour and they connect appropriately with the story. His delivery is consistently strong and the air is thick with attention to the breath dense and at times almost operatic strain. Whilst paying respect to The King, Mikelangelo brings his own unique flavour. His rendition of ‘Love Me Tender’ on the squeezebox is beautiful.
Midway through the show he is joined on stage for ‘Viva Dubrovnic’! by some of the talented crew from local bands Brass Knuckle and Moochers Inc. John Gosling on trombone; Thomas Manley on sax; Tim bowyer and Cameron Smith on trumpet; David Abkiewicz on sousaphone; Mark Levers on drums. Their synchronicity is impressive and their sounds bombastic. Man do these guys get around. They play all over town ALL THE TIME and are relentless in their commitment to not only making their own music, but to supporting others. Without rehearsal, they and our serenader are seamless in their collaboration. Mikelangelo is generous in his support as well, shimmying his way around the stage to allow the band their own attention. And we gave it eagerly.
The show ends with a sing-along to ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ followed by a foot stomping encore of ‘Hound Dog’. And finally a kiss good night for every audience member from Mikelangelo upon exit.
“I’m gonna become a big star. I’m gonna become a constellation”. Indeed.