We’ve heard of cross-country concert tours, but not many like this.
On Thanksgiving Monday, Pete Paquette and his band of Elvis sound-alikes will fly here from New Brunswick on the second leg of a concert tour that includes dates in the Maritimes and coastal B.C., with no stops in Canadian cities between the two regions.
It’s the latest journey for Paquette Productions’ A Tribute to Elvis in Concert show, staged at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Saturday, Oct. 14, wrapping up a five-date tour of this province.
“Hopefully our Thanksgiving dinner will be nice on the plane, right?” Paquette said with a laugh. “I doubt it, but it’s kind of cool going from one end of the country to the other, so it’s literally a coast-to-coast tour. We tour all the time in the middle part (of Canada) so we can miss it this time.”
Paquette, a Toronto-based performer, will suit up as the “young,” leather-wearing Elvis for his latest show here, this time with the U.K.-based Chris Connor as the jumpsuit-adorned “Vegas” version of the King.
Both are award-winning Presley impersonators, and hooking up for the A Tribute to Elvis in Concert is something they try to do as often as possible.
“Chris doesn’t come around very often, so we work with his schedule, and that time is now,” Paquette told Black Press in a phone interview.
“I open the show with the young Elvis and the (songs) he did after the Hollywood movies. Then Chris comes out in the second part of the show and does the Vegas-era Elvis. That’s his specialty, and he does a really terrific job of the ’70s era… I’ll do the ’70s if my guest performer can do the ’50s and leather, so I can do that, too. But when Chris is with us, he does the jumpsuits, the Vegas era. That’s how we split it up, me and him.”
Paquette, who talks with a French-Canadian accent, launched Paquette Productions as a company to promote his “Elvis: The Moments” show about a decade ago, with the help of his mother-in-law, Connie Tsirakis.
“We work as a family, and she’s the one who inspired me to create a business like this,” Paquette explained. “She’s from an entrepreneurial background, and I’m an artist, a performer, so our talents came together and we started something that feels right.
“The first show we did was strictly for me, ‘Elvis: The Moments,’ and it was a big show for us and we toured it across Canada for many years,” he continued. “But one day I said to Connie I’m ready to bring in some artists I feel are top-shelf as far as their popularity, look and talents, and that’s where we started working with Chris (Connor) about three years ago. It will be his second time in B.C., so we’re thrilled to tour with him again.”
Today, Paquette Productions’ roster of shows includes tributes to Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly and Tom Jones.
Paquette, the man, sticks to doing the songs of Graceland’s former owner, a performer he first discovered as a 10-year-old boy raised in the region between Montreal and Ottawa.
“I saw a TV commercial of Elvis videos they were selling, and Elvis had passed away already – a few years before I was born, actually,” Paquette recalled. “I just got hooked on the way Elvis performed, the music, and I questioned a lot about who he was, and I just became an instant fan. I’m in my early 30s now and people sometimes wonder how I could be such a huge Elvis fan, but it’s just everything about him and his music, pretty simple. It’s just timeless.”
Local Elvis fans might not know that Les Vogt, a Steveston-based concert promoter, helped pioneer the Presley-tribute industry in the late-1970s. At the time, Vogt worked with Roy Orbison, whose pending heart surgery forced the cancellation of a show in Hawaii, prompting Vogt to turn to a bunch of performers who looked and sounded like The King.
“I had to think of something, because I didn’t want to cancel the show,” Vogt told the Now in 2011. “I saw Dick Clark had put eight Elvis impersonators on TV not long before that, and that was the beginning of the whole impersonator phenomenon.”
Vogt’s groundbreaking work in the tribute-artist industry, which has included many tours over the years, is not lost on Paquette.
“I worked with Les for many years doing shows,” noted Paquette, whose own production company is growing.
“Elvis is just a stepping stone to what we ultimately want to create, which is beautiful, three-dimensional shows that are fun and interactive, and that’s our goal with any of the shows we do, whether it’s Elvis or Motown or Johnny Cash, all of them,” Paquette said.
The current tour coming to Chilliwack will feature The Rockin’ Royals Band, The Tonettes singers and 401 Horns.
“The band we have, it’s very much our identity, and when people come to see our show it’s as much about the band, because they’re just awesome,” Paquette raved. “They’re just a strong group of musicians who mean business when they get on stage, and they leave an impression, no question…. I’m very fortunate to have a band like that, and I call them all my friends, just awesome people to work with.”
A Tribute to Elvis in Concert is Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. Tickets $49/adult and $45/senior and available at the Centre Box Office, by phone at 604-391-SHOW, or online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.