Hail to the king! Scot Bruce on 20 years of paying tribute to Elvis

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Elvis has not left the building.

In fact, the King continues to rule the stage in the form of longtime Elvis Presley impersonators Scot Bruce and Mike Albert. The two men, along with the Big E Band, tonight bring their popular "Elvis Birthday Bash" concert to the State Theatre in Easton. (The show was rescheduled from its original January date.)

"Coming to the State Theatre is like coming home. They've been so good to us," Bruce said during a January phone interview. "There is a real sense of family there. We love the people who work there."

Bruce, during a January phone interview, said the show is not necessarily about Elvis the person, but rather celebrating the rock 'n' roll icon's musical legacy. "Elvis Birthday Bash" features Bruce portraying the Sun Records-era rockabilly Presley while Albert portrays the older, jumpsuit-and-cape-era version of Presley.

"First and foremost, it's about the great songs. We love the fact that (Presley's music) has withstood the test of time," he said. "People love that music."

Slipping into the skin of his music hero for close two decades has meant returning to his roots for Bruce. "I've loved rock 'n' roll as long as I can remember and love that music. There is something very special about '50s rock 'n' roll. It has always had a profound effect on me," Bruce said. "There is something about it. I just feel a real connection with that era."

"Elvis Birthday Bash" covers Presley's career trajectory -- from his breakthrough as a fresh-faced, hip-swiveling music sensation to his leather-clad comeback and closes with the sequin-studded years that defined the singer's final days.

However, Bruce is quick to point out that he and Albert do not take their performance too seriously. He acknowledged though there is a stigma often associated with he and Albert, what they do on stage is not the same as traditional Elvis impersonators. He described "Elvis Birthday Bash" as a very respectful portrayal.

"The first reaction is to giggle. They think jokey, cheesy Las Vegas thing. It's hard sometimes for people to make a distinction," he said. "I'm pretending, the audience gets to pretend. When it's all over, I hang up the jacket and go back to being Scot. Once the show's over, we all go back to reality.

"We honor Elvis, not make fun of him."

Bruce said part of the fun of bringing Presley's catalog to life is letting fans -- himself included -- suspend disbelief for a few hours. "We kind of go in and out of character (during the show). We talk about Elvis in the third person. But the reaction is the same," Bruce said. "In the 20 years I've been doing this, there are very few artists in popular music that have had as broad and multi-generational appeal as Elvis and The Beatles and maybe a handful of others."

Bruce credited the simplicity of the lyrics and craftsmanship of the melodies and musical structure for giving Presley's songs the ability to transcend generations of fans. Not only were "Hound Dog," "All Shook Up," "Burning Love," "Heartbreak Hotel" and other hits infectiously catchy, they contained lyrics with whom teenagers and adults could relate.

Presley's distinct voice, impressive vocal range -- one that could jump from baritone to tenor and back in the same song -- and stage presence didn't hurt.

"Love songs that are struggles we have, finding love and losing love and things like that, haven't changed," Bruce said. "It was a visual experience as well. The way he gyrated and shook and reacted to the music. I just think all of those things put together made it a really special thing.

"Another Elvis hasn't come along since then and it's probably unlikely that one will. He was one of a kind."

"Elvis Birthday Bash" is 7 tonight at the State Theatre, 453 Northampton St. Tickets cost $41, $36. Information: statetheatre.org