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Wendy Rose: A date with Elvis

Elvis impersonator Thane Dunn is shown in 2015 in front of the Battery in St. John’s.  — Facebook
Elvis impersonator Thane Dunn is shown in 2015 in front of the Battery in St. John’s. — Facebook - Submitted

The first Friday of 2018 was a surreal day. St. John’s experienced sunny skies, whipping wind, sporadic rainfalls, warmer temperatures than Florida, and the reincarnation of the late great Elvis Aron Presley.

The King of Rock and Roll was channelled by Thane Dunn, and his band The Cadillac Kings, at Holy Heart of Mary Theatre.

After an introduction from The Telegram’s own Tara Bradbury, an Elvis and Thane Dunn fan, the curtains rose, and the show began.

The eight-piece band put on an impressive performance. A visually striking light show illuminated the spectacle, the sparkles and sequins of Dunn’s lavish outfits refracting glimmers of light around the large theatre.

The Cadillac Kings’ lineup featured two Newfoundlanders (vocalist Kim West-Butler and bassist Rod Chipman), and while their inclusion was appreciated by the local audiences, it was Bill Baize of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet who rivaled Dunn in captivating the crowd.

Baize performed with Presley throughout the 1970s, prior to Presley’s 1977 death, and the magic of his presence was not lost on the audience.

Still, Dunn was the undeniable star of the show.

Telling the audience to expect “new songs, old songs, high songs, low songs, and rock and roll songs,” as well as gospel music, Dunn launched into “C.C. Rider,” his leg twitching in his peacock jumpsuit.

“I Got A Woman,” and “I Got A Thing About You Baby” led us into a rousing cover of “Jailhouse Rock,” followed by “Heartbreak Hotel,” altered to suit his current location.

“Take a walk down Kenmount Road to the Capital Hotel,” Dunn sang, inspiring laughs from the crowd.

Although presented in a large venue, the show had an intimate feel, with Dunn telling jokes and stories in between each tune.

Dunn recalled fond childhood memories of the next track, “Peace In The Valley,” which he performed with Baize. This solemn tune led us into the intermission.

 

Although presented in a large venue, the show had an intimate feel, with Dunn telling jokes and stories in between each tune.

 

The King impersonator returned in a new jumpsuit, his turquoise accents switched out for a bright red.

His wild dance moves made another appearance in “Polk Salad Annie,” the frenzy subsiding during a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me,” with Dunn singing the lyrics “on bended knee,” on bended knee.

Dunn took a short break from performing music to chat about some of his philanthropic endeavours, such as fundraisers for the SPCA, his title as celebrity ambassador, and some upcoming contests and charitable efforts.

The King of the Cadillac Kings then invited Baize to take centre stage for “When It’s My Time,” one of Presley’s favourite gospel tracks, Baize explained, recalling precious memories of hotel room sing-alongs with The King, over 40 years ago.

More gospel tunes would follow, including a lovely rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” before Dunn switched back to rock and roll with “Suspicious Minds,” and “American Trilogy,” dedicated to the King, followed by Presley’s version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”

The final song, the renowned love ballad “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” was especially moving. A preschool-aged boy decked out in a tiny Elvis costume, complete with aviators and sideburns, joined Dunn onstage for most of the song, before returning to his mom.

Though it was unknown at the time, this touching performance would be the last of the night. As the curtains fell and the applause subsided, a disembodied voice rang out: “Elvis has left the building.”

He was back Saturday for Round 2 of “Thane Dunn and his Cadillac Kings New Elvis Rock and Gospel Show.”

* This article has been updated.

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