Ses­sion shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as re­lated to us by Mitch Dal­ton This month: X is for ex­treme stress

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - For more on Mitch and his mu­sic go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

Now, what could be more of a dod­dle, eh? The op­por­tu­nity to pay a few bills for a fort­night merely by kick­ing back and blast­ing through the back cat­a­logue of The King, The Pelvis, The Dude That Left The Build­ing. EP him­self. Uh-huh. Oh my. If only it were that sim­ple. The re­al­ity is that the busi­ness of play­ing to up­wards of one hun­dred thou­sand Elvo­holics in six are­nas turns out to be a tad more in­volved than one might ini­tially con­tem­plate. Be­lieve me, the fact that The Great Gyra­tor checked out of Heart­break Ho­tel some years ago is but a mi­nor chal­lenge in the grand scheme of things. That is­sue is re­solved at a stroke by beam­ing footage ex­tracted from two dif­fer­ent Pelvic per­for­mances onto a gi­ant video screen. Thanks to the tech­nowiz­ardry of our age, the sound­track is erased but Elvis’s voice is left in situ. All that re­mains is to hire The Royal Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra and a crack rhythm sec­tion to play the ‘live’ show on stage. I guess it is but a mi­nor leap of lat­eral think­ing to per­suade the Pres­ley Pun­ters to ‘Just Pre­tend’. Af­ter all, it is but a small step away from see­ing a mi­crodot of Adele live but flanked by banks of mega screens. Such is the mod­ern way of it.

No. The tech­ni­cal is­sues be­gin to re­veal them­selves at 10.30am on a bleak Sun­day morn­ing, al­most as soon as the Rid­dem Boyz as­sem­ble in a gi­ant shed on an in­dus­trial es­tate in West Lon­don’s deeply un­fash­ion­able West Lon­don.

We open out the mu­sic for the first tune, one of a mere 37 vinyl-tas­tic mon­ster hits with which we are to car­pet-bomb a sus­pect­ing au­di­ence. With but one day’s re­hearsal. That’s cor­rect. Thirty seven tunes. Six hours. Let’s just leave it there, shall we?

The first is­sue presents it­self at ap­prox­i­mately 10.31am. There are three ar­range­ments to choose from: the orig­i­nal record­ing, a Las Ve­gas live show and the re­cent smash hit ver­sion of Elvis with Or­ches­tra. Then there is the small mat­ter of fol­low­ing the white jump-suited crooner on cel­lu­loid. This has been ad­dressed by map­ping his voice to a click track which we then fol­low with the aid of in-ear mon­i­tor­ing. Sadly, most singers back phrase when per­form­ing and al­low the band to carry the time through the per­for­mance. The re­sult­ing clicks are thus a mi­asma of ever chang­ing tempi, or no no tempo at all. The trick is some­how to smooth out the mapped vo­cal clicks and pull off a com­pro­mise that repli­cates how the orig­i­nal band per­formed.

Half past five duly ar­rives. Good news for chemists. There is no longer a Neu­ro­fen to be pur­chased in Park Royal. But our new Amer­i­can pro­duc­tion best friends seem happy with our ef­forts. As in­deed they should be. Parting the Red Sea is be­gin­ning to look like a breeze, in ret­ro­spect.

We re­con­vene the fol­low­ing day, this time with back­ing vo­cal­ists. And the fol­low­ing day, with or­ches­tra. With the ex­cep­tion of our Prin­ci­pal Vi­o­lin, they do not have clicks with which to con­cern them­selves. There then fol­lows an en­ter­tain­ing six hours of ad­just­ment and re-ad­just­ment as 70 con­fused souls at­tempt to fol­low their leader who is fol­low­ing our con­duc­tor who is fol­low­ing an out-of-time click track which is fol­low­ing an out-of-time Elvis.

There is fur­ther in­formed dis­cus­sion as to how scary a mu­si­cal near death ex­pe­ri­ence we are in for at The Hy­dro, Glas­gow on open­ing night, barely 36 hours hence. But who wants to quit Show­biz? My main is­sue re­volves around the fact that The King per­forms a med­ley of ‘those’ rock and roll clas­sics at the start of the sec­ond half of our per­for­mance. Pos­si­bly due to the fact that he might have be­come a tad jaded and a mite un­in­ter­ested in this seg­ment of the show af­ter two mil­lion times, he blasts through ‘em faster than Usain Bolt with a Tele­caster. I am left in the un­com­fort­able po­si­tion of be­ing barely able to play a 12-bar blues and var­i­ous as­so­ci­ated iconic so­los for the first time in my pro­fes­sional life. All Shook Up takes on a whole new mean­ing.

As ever, the rest is mys­tery. We get through open­ing night. Ad­mit­tedly, the Ve­gas ice is wafer thin and the Mem­phis cliff edge hor­rif­i­cally close. There are a num­ber of what one might rea­son­ably call ‘glitches’. But we sur­vive, at an emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal cost yet to be quan­ti­fied. And I get to play my shiny new or­ange Gretsch 6120. And play the so­los to That’s Al­right Mama, Blue Suede Shoes and all yer favourites. And I get to meet Priscilla Pres­ley.

In the end, de­spite our Sus­pi­cious Minds, I... er... rather en­joyed it. And I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Sorry...

i am left in the un­com­fort­able po­si­tion of barely be­ing able to play a 12-bar blues

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