Several times during our conversation, Elvis tribute artist Pete Paquette repeats he does not pretend to be the King of Rock and Roll. He has too much respect for one of the 20th century's most influential singers.
“I show what he was about through his music. I’m going to portray all the qualities you’ve grown to love about him,” said Paquette. “He was smooth, authentic, and enjoyable to watch and listen to. I loved his energy, his charisma, his intimacy with a live audience, and the colourfulness of his music.”
A two-time champion of the Collingwood Elvis Festival and a top 10 finalist at the Ultimate Elvis Contest in Memphis, the circuit veteran is on a five-day tour of Alberta. It is his first foray into the province, and he plans a stop at the Arden Theatre on Friday, Sept. 24 to perform The Elvis Concert.
Backing Paquette is his entourage of musicians, The Rockin’ Royals, which feature three horns and a four-piece rhythm section. To create the true 50s-60s-70s sound, he’s also added The Tonettes, two female vocalists known for their vocal energy and sensitivity.
The Ontario-based artist was just six when he spotted a commercial on TV featuring the King and he was instantly enthralled. With the help of his favourite aunt and fervent supporter, he found a wig, got a jumpsuit made, and slapped on a pair of shades to perform at his elementary school.
Although Paquette continued performing, in high school he shifted his attention to karate and taekwondo.
“Before Elvis, I was a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme. He was my first role model,” Paquette said.
But the itch to perform never left. Growing in confidence, and with the support of his musical family, he participated and won just under 20 major Elvis competitions around North America. The exposure skyrocketed him to fame.
“I was at the height of my popularity. I participated in all kinds of festivals and competitions. It was very cool and I was very fortunate.”
But at 24, the peak of his career, he retired from competition.
“I met my wife in my mid-20s. Her family and mine had a common interest. It was more creatively fulfilling to do something of my own — something I can create, design, and produce. I started with The Elvis Show. It became popular and I started promoting other shows. I understood it was a business and I needed to expand.”
Today Paquette Productions promotes tribute shows with assorted artists, showcasing Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Motown, The Lovettes, and an Australian Bee Gee’s music. But the King of Rock and Roll is still Paquette's baby.
In addition to the St. Albert stop, he is performing at Fort Saskatchewan, Sherwood Park, Edmonton, and Calgary. Every year, the tribute artist devises a fresh set list to create a high-energy medley of different songs.
While he wants to keep some elements of the show a surprise, Paquette did mention the audience would hear music cast from the early 50s and Elvis' leather period in the late 60s.
“Did you know Elvis was the first one to wear a leather suit on stage? It was very edgy. He had come back. He was full of energy and there was more maturity to his songs. He modernized songs and was at the peak of his sexual appeal.”
Interestingly, Paquette mentioned that Elvis borrowed many different songs, costume ideas, and production facets from other artists.
“He was very good at soaking in different things and making them his own. You’re an imitator if you take one thing and use it. But you’re an artist if you can take from multiple influences and make it your own, whether it’s singing style or clothes.”
Paquette pointed out The Elvis Concert will be a blend of Presley’s popular songs as well as his more obscure numbers such as Kentucky Rain, It’s Midnight, and Unchained Melody. Tying everything together are factual behind-the-scenes stories from each song.
“One of the best comments I get usually comes from the husbands. They’ll say, ‘I wasn’t supposed to come, but I loved the show anyway. I’m not an Elvis fan, but this is an entertaining show.’ It’s really infectious, and it’s gratifying to see someone perform with spontaneity and passion.”
Tickets are $45 plus tax and are available through the Arden box office at 780-459-1542 or at https://stalbert.ca/exp/arden/tickets-box-office/
As of Sept. 20, the Arden Theatre requires those aged 12 and over to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of service, or documentation of a medical exemption.