Pop: The return of The King

Fiona Sturges
Monday 11 January 1999 00:02 GMT
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THE KING ASTORIA

LONDON

AS ANYONE who has managed to sit through a whole episode of Stars In Their Eyes knows, the desire to dress up as a rock star extends far beyond adolescence. For some, satisfying these urges may involve playing air guitar in front of the mirror, but for erstwhile postman Jim Brown it has signified a drastic change in career. Now known simply as The King, he has recently scored a three-album record deal and on Friday night performed to a packed house as Elvis Presley. But what separates Brown from your everyday Elvis impersonator is that he sings songs by other dead rock stars, but in the style of Elvis.

Rather than being met with resigned pity, The King was greeted ecstatically by a crowd that ranged from teenage to middle age, rockabilly to raver. Brown came across as a seasoned performer, having grasped the audience's sympathies with a bit of gentle ribbing. "You thought I was dead, didn't you. Well actually I'm 64 years old, so excuse me if I'm a little out of practice". Hearing Brown purring through such enduring classics as Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" and T-Rex's "Twentieth Century Boy" proved entertaining, while his rendering of Nirvana's "Come As You Are" would have put tears in the eyes of the most hardened cynics.

Brown had appropriated Presley's Vegas era for his act, sporting a gold lame jacket, leather strides and an unfeasibly large quiff. He perfectly captured his idol through a series of Presleyesque mannerisms: the scrupulous sneer; the slurred delivery and that familiar stance - legs akimbo with one knee furiously twitching.

And Brown does sound uncannily like Elvis, right down to that nasal trill when he holds a note. He continued the pantomime in between tracks as he assumed the familiar mumbling drawl that always made Presley sound like he was half-way through a yawn.

There were difficult moments: there was a blood-curling rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" where Brown's voice became inordinately shrill and the rock histrionics of his guitarist made some members of the audience stare at their shoes in shame. There were also instances where Brown, having seemingly run the gamut of Presley poses, found himself at a loss for something to do. So, in the spirit of karaoke, he resorted to that time-honoured tradition of getting the men and women in the crowd to vie over who could sing the loudest.

But for the most, Brown seemed at ease with his new-found career. And while we were never lulled into believing it was the real thing, it was difficult to remember that up there crooning, sneering and swaggering his way through some of rock's most formidable classics was a postman from Belfast.

A shorter version of this review appeared in later editions of Saturday's paper

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