TOUR KING ELVIS
Laura Enfield checks out a rock’n’roll tribute at The O2
First we had Prince and now The King has arrived at The O2. Or rather a dazzling collection of his bejewelled jumpsuits, capes and belts. Elvis On
Tour is named after the singer’s 1972 documentary and covers the period 1969 to 1977.
It shows his evolution from black leather-clad sex symbol to fully fledged jumpsuit-wearing icon through more than 200 artefacts from Graceland.
Designed by Bill Belew, the costumes are the star of this show, starting as fairly plain and becoming more intricate. By 1973 most of his outfits had matching waist length capes and heavily embellished belts.
Curator Angie Marchese said: “Throughout the years they became very elaborate and almost took on a personality of their own.
“Elvis was very much in control of the show and as it progressed so did the stage wear.”
It also became heavier – the Amber Stones suit weighing in at 50lbs – and Elvis used to rehearse with weights attached to his torso and limbs to prepare. Alongside the visual elements, visitors will learn about his return to the stage after many years making films.
One of the most valuable exhibits is the heavy gold belt Elvis was gifted by The International in Las Vegas for breaking world attendance records there, with more than 101,509 people going to his shows at the hotel. The 21-stop audio guide gives a mind boggling array of facts and includes videoed performances and insider info about what it was really like to travel with The King.
Elvis toured exhaustively over this eight year period, often racing from the end of one concert to the next, spawning the phrase “Elvis has left the building”. Many believe it was this punishing schedule that led to the breakdown of his marriage and health. It’s clear his fans came first.
In the words of the man himself: “I like to please the crowd and excite them and keep them happy.”
And it feels like this exhibition is trying to honour that. Thank you very much.
The O2, North Greenwich, until Feb 4, 2018, from £12, theo2.co.uk