Review: Elvana at Southampton 1865

For many, the concept of an Elvis-fronted Nirvana tribute band may initially sound like a humorous gimmick. It’s true that tonight’s show induces smiles all around the venue though it’s more to do with the fact you know you’re witnessing a band absolutely bringing it on stage rather than anything remotely like a throwaway parody. 

Reviewing what is essentially a ‘covers band’ is a little difficult. I guess the question to ask is whether they sound like Elvis and/or Nirvana? Perhaps it all depends on what you want out of a tribute act? Our jumpsuit clad frontman tonight self deprecatingly explains to those who have never seen the band before that ‘sometimes he sounds like Kurt Cobain and sometimes he might even sound like Nicholas Cage(!) but never like Elvis fucking Presley!’ Ok, so the voice may never reach the moody highs and lows of the King himself but in terms of performance levels, tonight’s show is everything you’d want from a band daring to do this in the first place. 

Maybe the better question to ask then is whether they bring that nostalgic thrill and a little bit of something else which the best covers bands can provide? Quite simply, they give it out in spades. Opening with ‘Dive’ which is as dirty and grungy as it sounds on record they follow it up with ‘In Bloom’ which includes some warbling Elvis-like vocals during the verse before launching into the throaty Cobain chorus. At this point the packed out 1865 are jubilant, the band on stage providing a blend of Elvis Presley’s charm and Nirvana’s grunge energy. 

Elvis (Elvana’s frontman of course goes by the same name as the King) is all hip shakes and sweaty high kicks – evoking Vegas era Presley. Fittingly the set also includes a number of costume stages. During the second change one of the two backing singers takes lead vocals on an excellent sounding B-52-esque ‘Love Buzz’ before Elvis is back in the building to the roar of the crowd. Our Elvis for tonight may have been modest about his own vocal skills but as an entertainer he’s one of the best out there. After a subdued but rather lovely crowd sing-along to ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ he jumps down from the stage and proceeds to walk through the crowd as Cobain’s guitar starts to pick out the opening of ‘Heart Shaped Box’. As the chorus hits he leaves a sea of pogoing fans in his wake. 

The set includes all the songs you’d expect from two of the biggest acts in history of course and a little bit more – we even get Nirvana’s ‘final’ song ‘You know you’re right’ at one point which is a bit of a surprise. What the band does very well tonight is mixing up the two artists’ tunes so instead of standard covers of both we get some interesting mash ups. The transition from “A Little Less Conversation” into “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” is nothing short of genius for example whilst ‘Jailhouse Rock’ morphs effortlessly into ‘Lithium’ where we get giant inflatable beach balls thrown into the crowd, our two pom-pom wielding, cheerleader backing singers sounding like the Shangri-las in the chorus and everyone in the venue having the time of their lives. 

Playing to a sold-out crowd, Elvana proves that they are more than just a clever/stupid idea – they are fun, entertaining, and incredibly talented musicians who know how to put on a show.


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