Elvis fans ‘All Shook Up’ as ‘Legends’ vacates him

Want to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Elvis Presley recording “That’s All Right” on July 5?

Wait a few days. About 2,000 Elvis fans and impersonators will descend on the LVH (which, in an Elvis context will forever be known as the Hilton) for the Las Vegas Elvis Fest July 10-13.

Or you can attend stand-alone tributes by Trent Carlini and Travis Allen. But you won’t find Elvis at “Legends in Concert” that day. Only the Blues Brothers’ version of “Jailhouse Rock.”

“Legends” will be missing its Elvis for eight weeks starting June 30. It’s just a summer vacation; he will be back in September, the producers say. But it’s still a major break in format from the one constant in the Strip’s second longest-running show (after “Jubilee!”), which opened in 1983.

Show officials say they want to “try new things and shake it up a little bit.” Those in the larger Elvis community wonder if it’s less about the King as a cultural force and more about the bottom line. They claim a top-rank Elvis impersonator pulls down more than the other tributes, as much as $10,000 more per month.

Matt Lewis worked as a “Legends” Elvis more than 11 years before branching off to produce his own tribute shows. You can understand why he’d find the decision “unconscionable.”

“It’s like going to McDonald’s and not being able to get a Big Mac. ‘We’re closing with a McRib this year,’ ” he says with a laugh. “That is not a choice that I would have made for Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas, after all, is “the second most important location in Elvis Presley’s career and life,” Elvis Fest producer Dan Lentino says. The King racked up 837 shows in seven years on a grueling schedule at the Hilton. It took 11 years for Celine Dion to pass him with about 920 shows at Caesars Palace.

But it seems like every few years, we are forced to wonder if the King is losing his grip on the Strip. The biggest blemish was Cirque du Soleil closing “Viva Elvis,” claiming Elvis fans are too old to be Aria’s target demographic.

Fans say it was the show’s fault for being bad, not theirs.

And “Legends” has been a victim of its own success for years, as tribute shows multiply. Fans could argue Elvis is big enough to split the market with two shows, since he is also in “Million Dollar Quartet.”

The Broadway musical, about a historical day at Sun Records in Memphis, would be an authentic way to celebrate July 5 — if it didn’t fall on a Saturday, the show’s day off. Still, “Million” is holding its own at Harrah’s Las Vegas after moving “Legends” into a 4 p.m. berth at the Flamingo.

“I don’t see this thing ever ending, because we’ve been building fans for the last several years,” Lentino says. As the original fans age, “we see those fans being replaced by younger fans. … It’s like they’re looking for something different. They’re not in tune to One Direction or Justin Bieber or any of that kind of stuff.”

Travis Allen, who does his “All Shook Up” at the V Theater, says you can see younger interest among impersonators as well. “We’re talking about guys so young they can’t enter contests yet.”

We’ll find out this summer if “Legends” messed with Elvis at its own peril. As the man himself sang, “I smell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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