On Friday, Feb. 16 we rolled into Harrow, Ontario for a church fundraiser. Yes, you heard that right, a church fundraiser. What made this church function so unique is that for the second time since December, local Elvis Presley tribute artist James Gibb had sold-out the Harrow United Church for an evening of music from music’s King of Rock and Roll.
Gibb is a unique Elvis artist. He mostly concentrates on recreating the look, sound and vibe of Elvis up to about the 1968 Comeback television special, but he’s willing to play music from any era – and fans got a taste of that with a powerful two-set performance of hits and rarities, complete with stories about the songs and recordings.
Dressed in a pink jacket, black shirt with the collar raised and black pants with white shoes, Gibb set the tone of the first set with hits like That’s All Right, Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes, King Creole and Hound Dog. But what made the first set extraordinary was a short Elvis country set inside the first act, featuring songs like You’re Cheatin’ Heart and Anything That’s A Part of You. He also threw in nuggets like Young Dreams, an Elvis cover of Blueberry Hill and gospel tunes Stand By Me and Peace In The Valley.
The second set was themed to the ’68 Comeback show, complete with tight black leather outfit and boots. The set featured rockers Trouble and Jailhouse Rock, but really shined with rare cuts like Love Letters, Green, Green Grass of Home, She Thinks I Still Care and Let It Be Me.
Throughout the show, Gibb gave a strong set of music that you rarely get to hear at tribute shows. The intimacy of Harrow United may have made it the prime venue for such a setlist, but it was clear by the time Gibb played I Was The One as his fourth song in, the audience was in for a lengthy and thorough treat.
Gibb is a charming performer who looks, moves and sounds enough like Elvis that there are actual moments when you feel like it’s a concert by the real deal. The church shows were performed with pre-recording backing music, unlike his live show in Windsor last year when he performed with a full band (Windsor act The Silvertones). Gibb works extremely well with a live band behind him and the Elvis twitches, shakes and shimmies seem more real when he has band members interacting with him, especially an authentic sounding act like The Silvertones. Hopefully we’ll see them together again in the future.
The two shows were part of fundraising efforts to build a new roof for the church, so in a way, James Gibb was actually raising the roof at the ol’ Harrow United Church. And the music of Elvis never sounded so good, especially those golden gospel tracks – but maybe those songs had a little help from the big guy upstairs for this performance (wink, wink).
It’s easy to see why Gibb has a fan base, with some fans travelled from as far as the Toronto area for this show. Next time he performs in town, especially with a full band behind him, music fans might want to check it out. Gibb can be found on Facebook.
For a little fun we decided to keep the photos black and white to suit the classic Elvis TV look.