She could be Macy Gray's older auntie

Angie Stone | Empire, London Elvis the Concert | Wembley Arena, London
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The Independent Culture

There were three things Angie Stone wanted us to know about her on Monday. One was that she was "all about soul music and real music". One was that her "salt and pepper shakers are loaded with funk". And the other was that she was "tired of being compared to people, because I've got my own thing". No prizes for guessing which "people" she was thinking of. Numerous critics have likened her debut album Black Diamond to those of Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill and the other women who are currently giving 1960s soul a 21st-century makeover. In our defence, even a press release from Stone's record company can't resist mentioning how well she sells in the US compared to Gray.

But her irritation is understandable. Stone, who was making records while Lauryn Hill was an actress in Sister Act II, had to endure many years as a backing vocalist and songwriter before releasing her own solo debut. Now, aged 36, she comes across as genuinely grateful to have put the slog behind her. A big buxom woman draped in a black-and-blue striped shawl, and with a phenomenal Afro that adds a foot to her height and width, she could be Macy Gray's aunt.

Her show was unmistakably that of someone older than the latest generation of soul sisters. While Black Diamond stirred trip-hop and hip-hop into the mix, in concert the songs were given much more conventional arrangements. Stone put on a traditional r'n'b revue, from the all-girl gospel trio who sha-la-la along to "Bone 2 Pic (Wit U)" to a band who sacrifice raw character for supper-club professionalism. Stone herself had a politeness and piety that belong to an earlier age. She got through two songs about a treacherous man without once implying that he had Oedipal tendencies.

These facets may distinguish her from her younger competitors, but not necessarily to her advantage. The workmanlike "soul music and real music" versions of the songs sapped the energy and attitude that they have on Black Diamond. Next time, Stone promised, she'll be bringing a brass section with her, and she could certainly do with one. It wasn't until we reached a singalong rendition of "No More Rain (In This Cloud)" that she really shone. It's an instant classic. Who knows, it could even do for her what "Try" did for Macy Gray. Oops.

"Elvis The Concert" features in the Guinness Book of Records as "the first live tour starring a performer who is no longer living", although a couple of the shows I've been to would almost qualify. The producers of this questionable enterprise have taken concert footage of Presley from 1970, 1972 and 1973, and wiped all the audio tracks except for his vocal. This footage is then projected on to a giant video screen, and as Presley's image swivels through "Heartbreak Hotel", "Love Me Tender" and two dozen other hits, a band and orchestra play along on stage. It's reverse karaoke: the singing's on tape and the music's live.

Macabre as it may seem, the show was done with as much integrity and affection as it possibly could be. The musicians, who also appear on screens on either side of Elvis's, include several who performed with Presley when the original footage was filmed. They have earned the right to invoke Elvis's ghost, so the concert wasn't really any more morbid than the singles which the Beatles made from old John Lennon demos. Compared to Natalie Cole's duet with her late father or - my personal favourite - the duet which the grown-up Aled Jones recorded last year with his prepubescent self, it was a model of taste. And it's barely more ghoulish than paying to see some has-been rock star - fill in your own example - just because he was a hitmaker decades earlier.

As for Elvis, he put on a rip-roaring show for someone who shuffled off this mortal coil 23 years ago. The Presley we see on the slightly fuzzy screen is fighting fit,having yet to succumb to his cheeseburger habit: he is addicted only to white jumpsuits with flapping flares. His deep, sleepy voice drips with mischief and charisma and his presence oozes strength, grace and ... what am I doing reviewing someone who's dead?

That's the effect this disorientating spectacle has on you. Presley jokes, laughs, mops the sweat from his shiny face, and for a while he comes to life. A few moments were especially spooky. One came when he paused during "Polk Salad Annie", the crowd in Wembley cheered, and he "responded" by gesturing for us to settle down. But it was stranger still when one of the musicians appeared on all three screens of the triptych, the two which transmitted the live action and the one which carried film from the 1970s. We got to see a white-haired James Burton, for instance, playing a guitar solo at the same time as a dark-haired James Burton, 30 years younger. And if that felt weird for the audience, God knows how it must have felt for him.

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