The Royal Symphony, presumably timed to coincide with the latest film biopic, is a concert of around 25 mostly well-known Elvis Presley songs performed by the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra. This is actually a 30-piece ensemble, heavily amplified, and not to be confused with the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra, which IS a symphony orchestra that performs “classical” concerts throughout the United States throughout the year. In fact, one of the problems of this concert was sound design and balance, as the overall effect was of a ‘tinny’ quality and some players were over-amplified, such as the otherwise excellent kit percussionist, who dominated the action too much. It was also strange that the pianist, who had several solo options and was very competent like the rest of the orchestra, was hardly in sight. The orchestra only got one number for itself as an instrumental, which was a pity, because the sound was very successful and showed how capable this supposed “pickup” band actually is.
In addition to the orchestra, there was also an uncredited three-piece backing group that was given what was by far the most successful number of the concert shortly after the interval: Viva Las Vegas, which featured the unnamed male singer, who was truly superb in true Elvis style as well a beautiful singing voice and presence. The audience’s enthusiasm was more than justified, but unfortunately this was the only time the group was allowed to perform alone!
The concert was conducted by British artist Toby Cruse who practiced a very clear mirror conductor beat and must have been exhausted by the end of the evening! Most of the effective orchestral arrangements seem to have been put together by American conductors Steve Rawlins and Uli Geißendörfer.
The Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra itself was formed in 1985 primarily as a “pop” recording orchestra and was purchased by its current CEO, Shea Arender, in 2017. Arender plays most of the songs in concert, not as he told us trying to impersonate ‘The King’ but just trying to get it across. It was a shame that much of his performance seemed to be aimed at either the front row of the stalls or the left stage. In addition, it was mostly difficult to hear above the orchestra due to the tonal balance. In theory, the concert should take us through Elvis’ life and music in chronological order, but while his enthusiasm is undeniable, Shea’s knowledge of Elvis’ career seems tenuous. A writer and director would have helped the connections between numbers.
However, many in the audience obviously enjoyed the evening and ended up dancing in the aisles! The Royal Symphony scheduled to tour the UK in early 2023.
Review by John Groves
Shea Arender and the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra in a symphonic celebration of the music of Elvis Presley!
Native to South America, Shea performs and narrates Elvis’ life through music, including the Vegas years, the movie years and the many hits in between!
The music will inspire you and the Elvis story told through Shea will touch your heart as you sit back and enjoy unique symphonic arrangements of unforgettable songs including Can’t Help Falling in Love, Suspicious Minds, It’s Now or never”. ‘, ‘You Gab Me a Mountain’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel/Teddy Bear’, ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.
Making its UK debut, the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra is joined by Principal Guest Conductor Toby Cruse on this supercharged journey of musical power!
Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra
Shea Arender voice
Conductor by Toby Cruse
Friday 17 June 2022
Duration: approx. 2 hours (including a break)