When it came to Christmas, Elvis Presley was the kid who never grew up. He decorated his mansion indoors and outdoors, gave extravagant gifts to family and friends, and generously donated to charities.
As the holiday season approaches, Troy Marchak, owner of Crown and Tower Pub, brings back the King for a sentimental night of Elvis entertainment on Friday, Dec. 17.
Tribute artist Robin Kelly will step up to the microphone with three sets of the King’s most memorable songs — a 1950s set of rock and roll songs; a 1960s rendition of movie songs; and a segue into the golden 1970s.
“Elvis was the most versatile singer of the era. He could sing any song — rock, country, gospel, blues — and it sounded great. My mum was a fan, and I grew up listening to it. And my voice is suited to his music,” said Kelly in praise of his idol.
Kelly’s first professional performance was May 22, 2000, at Calgary’s Royal Canadian Legion Ogden Branch.
“I had grown up with stage fright and once passed out cold. This show was a huge milestone for me. I didn’t pass out,” said Kelly who at the time was employed as a welder.
“I almost quit. It was not a great show. My voice fluttered and I was really scared. But I made myself a promise to stick it out. I gave myself four months, and after that, if I was not enjoying it, I’d go back to my old job.”
Putting his nose to the grindstone, he laboriously studied Elvis’s every move and tonal inflection, gradually developing the seamless confidence needed to deliver a polished performance. Not only was Elvis a mesmerizing singer, he also exuded a shy vulnerability that masked an unshakeable faith in his destiny — not an easy feat to replicate.
“At the end of four months I was having fun some of the time. I was still scared and nervous, but I’d made strides in some areas.”
He also set himself a goal of becoming Canada’s No. 1 Elvis tribute artist within five years. Two years later, the Alberta tribute artist was crowned winner at the 2002 Collingwood Elvis Festival, the largest competitive event of its kind in the world.
“After winning, I was a headliner there every year until 2019 when the festival shut down. It was funded by the town and a new council didn’t see the value in it, although it made tons of money in tourist dollars.”
Kelly has performed at Las Vegas’s Stratosphere Hotel and Casino as well as toured across North America. But he never seriously contemplated taking his craft down south.
“If it was a really good offer, I’d go. But I’m smart enough to know what we have in Canada. I can always travel and do shows down there,” said Kelly. Pre-COVID he toured up to nine months of the year.
The pandemic shut doors on his thriving career. Luckily, outdoor events, including a street show in St. Albert this past summer provided him with an outlet through which to share his passion.
Now based out of Edmonton, Kelly lives to sing and is eager to connect with audiences once more at the Crown and Tower.
“You’re going to see a high-quality Elvis show. It’s going to be a high-energy, fun time. You’ll see the look of Elvis, hear the songs of Elvis, and I’ve been told I move like Elvis. I will take you back to a crazy time when a guy who had more talent than he should have had took the world by storm.”
Performances start at 8 p.m. No cover charge. Crown and Tower is located at 11 Bellerose Dr.