I had the opportunity last night to watch an "Elvis" impersonator. I mean...in person...and not at gunpoint.
For the record I didn't pay for the experience nor did I take advantage of the offers to have my photo taken with the impersonator for $5.00.
He actually was very entertaining. This impersonator and his entourage are known as Michael Albert and the Big "E" Band.
I've heard it said, and I tend to believe, that most of us identify with the music from our high school years. Whatever we listened to during those years is the type of music we associate with the best times of our lives, even though I suspect high school would not rate as the best time in most of our lives by any means.
Elvis' popularity peaked (at least on the music charts - in general terms it could be debated he might be even more popular today) before my high school era and my music tastes - or at least the types of music I am most familiar with and link to the "good times" in my life - are from the early 70's to early 80's.
Not that I didn't occasionally listen to Elvis music - and I still do today.
Elvis impersonators are a different story. Michael Albert is the first Elvis impersonator I've ever gone to see "live."
I was struck by a couple of things during his performance and make no mistake he put on a very fine performance. He's not a dead ringer for Elvis, in fact I'm sure when he removes the white, rhinestone covered pants suit and the over the top black wig with sideburns, he can probably go just about anywhere without anyone thinking he's "Elvis." However on stage he did demonstrate the same type of charisma, he knows how to work the crowd, and appeal to his core audience while entertaining those of us who were not quite as enamored with Elvis or his legacy. However make no mistake if you truly want to enjoy the full show of an Elvis impersonator, you need to watch more than the performance. Such events, at least to me, are much like watching professional wrestling...if you aren't spending as much time observing the audience then you are missing a major component of the show.
There were people a decade or three older than myself who were swaying in their seats, many were mouthing or singing the words to songs which I had never heard performed before - by Elvis or anyone else. In fact I initially thought that I might be watching the only Elvis impersonator who specialized in doing the "B" side of Elvis singles. However he eventually started singing a few more songs with which I was familiar...and the crowd ate it up even more.
I didn't stick around for the whole act...or even the entire first half of the program. Still what I did watch was entertaining, and some of the elder members of my family stayed for the whole show and seemingly loved it.
As I left I couldn't help but wonder if in 10 or 15 or 30 years this same auditorium might be packed with folks watching a similar program. A "tribute" act to a musician representative of a time in their lives when the healing power of our memories eventually tilted life's ration of good times to outweigh the bad.
I would feel equally out of place since that entertainer also reached his peak at a time outside of the most influential musical era for me.
Like Elvis though, he was a musician who had a lot of imitators when he was alive and who died too young and too suddenly.
Both were pioneers.
It will be interesting to see if Michael Jackson's legacy will include a "tribute industry."
Time will tell.
However if there are Michael Jackson impersonators working the circuit in 15 or 20 years...take my advice...try to catch the show...and remember to watch all the participants, including the folks in the seats in front of you.
If nothing else, I think you may have a better understanding of the cliche "larger than life."