He’s only doing two shows in December and one of them is in Bedford.
So, if you want to see the world’s greatest Elvis tribute before Christmas… It’s Now or Never
When Chris Connor stood up in front of friends at a karaoke party 14 years ago, to sing two of his favourite Elvis songs, Burning Love and Suspicious Minds, he didn’t know that he was embarking on a journey that would take him across the world and earn him the adoration of millions of fans, writes Tom Johnston
For that night down the pub with friends was the moment when Chris, now internationally recognised as the world’s greatest Elvis Presley tribute act, realised that not only could he sing, but he could do it just like The King.
He wasn’t even a child sensation when he swapped pub stage for world stage – Oldham-born Chris was 28 and working on a building site when he got the Graceland calling, and he hasn’t really looked back since.
“I loved music and was always singing, but only to myself – in the shower or the car,” says Chris, “I never dreamed of getting up in front of people and doing it. But that night I stood up and sang a couple of Elvis songs that just popped into my head.
“Straight afterwards, someone said to me: ‘You should do that professionally’ and another told me to go to the Elvis conventions and see how they do it there. I never knew much about Elvis, but when I did go and see some of the impersonator acts, I didn’t think they were doing Elvis justice.
“I decided then and there that I was going to do a tribute act but I thought if I’m going to try it, I’m going to make it very close to the real thing.”
And Bedford fans will have a chance to see just how ‘close’ Chris has got it, and exactly why he was voted the world number one Elvis tribute act when he comes to the town’s Corn Exchange theatre later this month.
Chris, now 42 (the age that Presley was when he died) launched himself professionally as Elvis in 2009 and it wasn’t long before he was selling out big venues in cities across the UK. After rave reviews and a stint headlining a show called ‘Legends’, Chris started to receive invitations to perform in other parts of the world – Australia, Canada, the US, Ireland, the Philippines, and the first-ever Memphis Festival in Holland.
That start allowed Chris and his manager (and now wife) Lisa, to develop his own spectacle ‘The World Famous Elvis Show’ which he now takes on the road with a 12-piece band, The Steels, backing singers The Sweet Harmonies, and a large production crew.
The two hour show comprises two separate Las Vegas-style Elvis performances with songs taken mainly from The King’s 1970s era.
“To portray Elvis I prefer to do the early 70s stuff and recreate Elvis’ famous shows,” says Chris. “They are full of energy, with a great band and great lights, and we try to get in as many songs as we can.
“We get two types of fan at the shows: mainstream, who want songs that they know and love from hearing them on the radio, and hard-core fans who want more obscure Elvis numbers. We try to strike a good balance.”
Why then is it that Presley’s memory and legacy continues to live on, more than 40 years since his death? Having studied the man and his music, Chris has his own views.
“Elvis was the first of his kind. The way he looked, his fashion, his voice, everything was totally different,” he says. “He didn’t copy anyone – like his white Kung Fu-style jumpsuits, nobody else was wearing those. He was unique.”
So what is it like walking on stage as the master? Does Chris feel he has ‘become’ Elvis?
“No, not all. I don’t become Elvis, I just try to portray him and get as close to him as I can,” he says. “I’m acting. I listen to his music and watch his films and study how he says things and does things. When I’m waiting to go on stage I’m preparing myself to be like him, but when I’m off-stage I’m me again – I do switch off.”
And Chris certainly plans to do just that at Christmas, when he’ll spend time at home in Cheshire with Lisa and four year-old daughter Lilly-May Pearl.
“It sounds a bit strange saying I’m having a break, considering the year we’ve had and the number of shows that were cancelled or re-arranged, but that’s how it is,” says Chris. “I’m looking forward to seeing the family this Christmas.”
There might even be a few carols sung in the Connor household, but Chris promises he won’t be breaking into Elvis’ Silent Night.