Return to Grace; Elvis Unfortunately – Has Left the Building ! Montreal Review

If attending ‘Return to Grace’ at Place des Arts over the course of the next week or so, close your eyes.

Something somewhat common takes place. Steve Michaels sings and sounds just like his alter ego; Elvis Presley. Songs heard a thousand times before pierce memories from far inside brains. Transporting people to the fifties, sixties and the seventies. Elvis, audibly and with eyes closed shut – never died. 


Open your eyes. 

Elvis is still dead.

‘Return to Grace’ is an attempt to bring Presley back to life and more importantly, introduce entire generations to a figure known to them as; ‘That Fat Guy’. Youtube and tales from parents and / or Grandparents cannot bring the legend back to life.

Live or dead …


The production team of Return to Grace do an outstanding job. The entire evening is periodically punctuated with a narrative. Explaining both historic events of Elvis’ lifetime and Elvis’ own historic events.

From Sun Records, an honorable Army appearance, his 68′ Comeback special and his very historic first- of- a- kind satellite broadcast from Hawaii. Elvis’ time capsule has been unearthed and thankfully, the movie version of Presley was not found.

A quarter of the way into the show, somewhere before or after ‘Return to Sender’, a magical thing happens. Michaels becomes Elvis.  The crowd’s snobby ‘ No One is Elvis’ attitude disappears and Michaels himself gets into the role. In fairness, Michaels is in character from the get-go, the audience is not.  A combination of the songs and theatrics ( dancers, back – up singers, choreography  and costumes)  kills the most ardent Ebenezer music fan. Michael’s mannerisms, voice and gestures, closer to the real Elvis than Priscilla was in the past few months of her marriage to Elvis.

 If Robert Downey Jr. is Ironman – Steve Michaels is ‘The King’ …


Michaels’ is the star in a role which must be one pressure cooker. After all, Presley was one of the most unique characters not just in the past fifty years,  a deity of the ages.

Michaels’ voice carries the tunes and his banter cracks the jokes. Uncanningly duplicating Elvis’ balancing act of confidence and shyness. Michaels nails the Devil and the Angel inside of Elvis. The good and evil. Any tribute to Elvis would be void without Presley’s personality. Presley’s persona as much  part of his fame as his fame was to his persona. Michaels and his team, the perfect students in a Graceland classroom. Disciples of Elvis’ church.


All the hits were onboard. ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘In the Ghetto‘. Teddy Bear’, Suspicious Minds’, ‘Lonesome Tonight’ and ‘Love Me Tender’. Just some  of the timeless songs which Elvis ( Michaels) bestowed upon his adoring public at Salle Wilfred Pelletier. 

‘American Trilogy’ – done faithfully from Elvis; Aloha from Hawaii, stole the second part of the evening. A recreation both physically ( jumpsuit)  and vocally.  A powerful tune in the satellite special, more powerful in person. The words; ‘Glory Glory Hallelujah’ sending shivers through spines bent over in awe. The backing vocals, male and female,  providing the ‘spirit’ of the Hawaii show spiritually, religiously and  righteous.


If ‘The Steve Michaels’ Special’ does anything, it fulfills a legacy through music and performance. Reminding ‘the punters’ of a time when showmanship was backed up by musicianship. 

Elvis Aaron Presley used to put on shows that made eyes and ears stay open. Steve Micheals  duplicates it.

Eyes and ears very wide open …


Visit Return to Grace Here !


Visit Evenko Here !

Buy the Album Here !
Buy the Album Here !

Visit Strangers in the Night Here to Buy Tickets




Watch Elvis Leave the Building !

Presented for the first time in Montreal!

Premiere on June 15  8 p.m.

 Place des Arts


evenko presents for the first time in Montreal, RETURN TO GRACE from June 15 to June 19, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.

A  glorious, heartfelt tribute to Elvis Presley’ s music featuring Steve Michaels,  and over 30 singers, dancers and musicians on stage, RETURN TO GRACE flawlessly delivers some the greatest musical moments of a generation with song favorites that include Heartbreak Hotel, Suspicious Minds, Love Me Tender, and more!



From the King’s beginnings in Memphis, to the amazing ’68 Comeback Special, to the historic Aloha from Hawaii concert, audiences experiencing RETURN TO GRACE re-live the music that changed rock and roll forever.

Enjoy the BEAUTY of the voice, the GRACE of the spirit and the JOY of the memory when you …

The concert of a lifetime

Wednesday, June 15
Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts
8 p.m.Curtain


Click Here to Buy Tickets !

Please help to encourage musicians everywhere.

Click here to support the growth of Rick Keene Music Scene. 

Thank You.


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Buy Tickets for Strangers in the Night 12 Here !

Jann Arden; Friday Night Lights!

They clapped, they cheered and they stood. In between – Jann Arden actually sang a few songs …


Arden, on the heels of her latest album; ‘Everything Almost’ – took the stage at The Olympia in Montreal on a warm September evening. Warm outside and warm in people’s hearts.

Such was the vibration felt around the venue from the mostly over-forty female audience. Put it this way, not a lot of Zeppelin fans fist pumping on Ste. Catherine street. Why would there be …?

Arden is not that type of singer although she dressed like a Joan Jett wannabe to start. Leather was in fashion yet – as she stated in one of the evening’s many monologues; ” You knew what you were getting …”

Well Joan Jett  was not it …

Simplicity and quality tunes is what the audience got.  Oh – and humor. Was humor mentioned?

That’s what those in attendance received in  a very cold ( temperature – wise) Olympia Theater.  No ‘avant garden’ for Arden and her touring entourage. No biting heads off bats. Save for a few ‘Elvis – esque’ lighted images of Arden behind the band and smoke (which made Salt Peter on fire seem weak in comparison),  basically a no frills  show visually …

Musically – especially for an Arden fan; filled with frills.

Commencing with ‘Counting Mercies’ from the new album and heading back through the past ‘ not-so-darkly’ and ‘darkly’ – Jann Arden proved her voice was still atop the heap of female songstresses in Canada. Following fifty -two years of good times and bad , Arden ‘s catalog an open book on a now gilded sleeve …

‘Wishing That’ brought tears in the most simplest way. ‘Insensitive’ – creative ( necessarily?) due to the number of times the ‘ flagpole’ song has been performed over the years. ‘Live and in person’  – the tune seemed unimpressive as some songs do compared to the polished studio version.  Insensitive appeared ‘insensitive’, rushed and void of soul. High expectations may have played a part in the letdown …

 ‘Hard to Be Alive’ was a Celtic high point with backing singer and front -woman in her own right – Allison Cornell, displaying more talent in a fiddle than most musicians display talent. Cornell – according to Arden; one of the most talented people on the planet complete with a horse farm. Then again, according to Arden, every member on stage were the most talented people on the planet. What else can she say? These guys suck ..?

One of those people Keith Scott, known mainly as Bryan Adams’ guitar player – set the tone around the midway mark with a ‘very planned”  Summer of 69‘ riff which laid a path for a sing-a-long.  Dangerous territory since those three minutes displayed Arden’s only weakness. Not being diverse enough to write Rock / Pop tunes. The energy surrounding Adams’ tune higher than any musical moment in Arden’s own arsenal.

Therein lies the beauty of Jann Arden. Keenly aware of her inability to pump the crowd with her tunes  – Arden relies on her own sense of humor (plus covers) and utilizes every moment vacant to display those wares. Whether waiting for a patron to go (and come back) from the washroom and / or inviting a drunken punter on stage for a ‘selfie’ moment – Arden mocks herself, the audience, her band members and everything in between.

These are the high energy moments  of the show normally saved for rockin’ songs that groups such as  Rush, The Guess Who and (insert Canadian band here) use in their concerts. All ballads for Jann (mostly) equals humor equals relative success. Easy …

Arden should place more time and effort into continuing her progressive career  on a variety of songs and genres. If the humor is removed  ( approx. thirty complete minutes), then Arden’s show in grave danger of  a sleep-fest unless the audience members are holding hands, in love and / or afraid of Rock n Roll.

If part of the latter group – Jann Arden’s concert is the best (and funniest) show this side of Laugh-In.

Most of Jann’s fans will remember that show.

Younger ones don’t care  and won’t show up …


You’re So Vain – Carly Simon Cover

Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams Cover


Hard to Be Alive

You Were Never Broken

You Love Me Back ( encore)

Happy ( Allison Cornell)

Everything Almost

Comedy Segments


Listen to my interview here …




The Slacks; Montreal’s Oldest / Newest Rock Band

Once upon a time …

Men like Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley were dominating the musical landscape. They were the ‘kings’ of Rock n Roll.


Teenagers were screaming, crying and tossing various items of clothes toward stages filled with energy. Parents were appalled. Priests tossed their hands into the air to combat the ‘devil music’ which possessed so many teenagers.

Fast forward a couple of decades …


The Stone Doctors raised $9,000 last night at Chez Maurice in Ste Lazare for the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Unit.

Way to go Boys!


Leeward Fate - No Ordinary Kind press pic HQ


House of Jazz - Opening in Laval Sept. 6th
House of Jazz – Opening in Laval Sept. 6th


Montreal International Jazz Festival 2014 – Recap Part Two.

It is the people of Montreal that make the Jazz Festival so good.

‘If you build it – they will come …’

Musicians from Zaire to Atlanta, each and every one of them, during the Jazz Festival or in the cold winter months, exude the same sentiment.

“Montreal has the best crowds …”

Maybe it is the winters which make us appreciate everything. Perhaps it is the lack of a Stanley Cup for twenty years. Does poutine have a magic elixir built in? Whatever it is – the people in Montreal love music.



The Quotes


“My two sons are playing with us on stage tonight – I think I am more terrified than they are …” Ed Robertson – The Barenaked Ladies

” Instead of saying they are amazing, people should say – I really enjoyed that band. I strongly suggest them. That way – you are not forcing your opinion on someone and letting them decide for themselves.” Susie Arioli

“You guys ( journalists) are very important for us. It is also very important to be true what you write. There is no point saying a show is good when it is not. How else can we decide who to bring to Montreal for the Jazz Festival?” Andre Menard – co-Founder of The Jazz Festival

” I had a Red Bull once. I thought I was going to die. I will never touch that stuff again!” Brian Ritchie – Violent Femmes


The Pics


Andre Menard
Andre Menard


Susie Arioli
Susie Arioli


Ed Robertson - Baenaked Ladies
Ed Robertson – Barenaked Ladies


Brian Ritchie
Brian Ritchie


The Shows


Gogh Van Go


Seventeen years is a very long time.

Think of it. In that time span – a person learns to crawl, walk, run and drive. A lot of growing up takes place, not to mention growing pains.

That is exactly what the band Gogh Van Go must be going through following their show at the Jazz Festival. Club Soda was not even close to half capacity yet one thing must be made clear – it was not the fault of Gogh Van Go.

Sorta …

2505301Aside from their success in the 90’s and the fans which remember them from the 90’s – there were approx. 90 people to see them in only their second gig in 17 years.

Following a monumental return in December 2013, it appeared the time was right for Van Go. Um … not yet.

Sandra Luciantonio still has an incredible voice. Thrilling those in attendance with the power of a younger woman. In songs such as ‘ The Bed Where We Lie’ and ‘Sugar’ – Sandra’s passion for her craft shines through.

Her partner on and off stage – Dan Tierney, shares the passion and his love is demonstrated in the band’s (arguably) biggest hit; ‘Say You Will’. The duo’s original backing band, Yves Desrosiers (guitar), Jean Masicotte ( Keyboards), John Souranis (bass) and JohnMcColgan (drums) – all performed as a tight knit unit. They performed with familiarity.

Here lies the problem.

A band and songwriting team from the 90’s, sings and plays their instruments like they were in the 1990’s. As stated earlier, through no fault of their own and based on pure absenteeism, a gap existed at Club Soda. A gap which can be repaired the more Gogh Van Go propels itself into 2014.


The talent is there, the songwriting is there ( two new songs – ‘Sugar’ and ‘ Mama Needs a New Dress), the back-line of  today’s alt-Pop is not there. All the songs performed would be awe inspiring moments if they were intertwined with a catalog which lay witness to a band evolving over they years. A ‘ look-back-at-the-beginning’ kinda thing. Preferably in black and white with Kennedy’s assassination headlines looming in the background.

This type of nostalgia plays well. The nostalgia which Gogh Van Go is performing does not. They are not old, they are not acting like people trying to make a buck. By all appearances and sounds – Gogh Van Go is a working viable group who have lost their way. A producer who is current would do wonders with Sandra and Daniel.

In other words –  the ‘Tunnel of Trees’ cannot be seen for the forensic remains of the dated forest. Somehow – Gogh Van Go will figure it out. Somehow – Club Soda will fill out.

‘Too good To’ not to …


Elvis Costello


Mr. Costello …

Mr. Diana Krall.

Mr. Everything  …

Elvis_Costello © dALIX-FIJM-001


Elvis was in town on his current solo tour. A tour which left those in attendance guessing. Elvis not even allowing a reporter the luxury of knowing any songs which he was to play at the Jazz Festival during the press conference.

It was a forgone conclusion that at least “Alison’ would be played. Which it was. ‘Veronica” perhaps? It was …

Elvis over the years has become a parody in many ways. A parody of his punk years with The Attractions, a reasonable facsimile with tunes such as ‘Everyday I Write the Book’ and his incarnation into the world of Burt Bacharach. Costello is a chameleon who appears to evolve and work at top speed.

His concert as part of The Jazz Festival appeared rushed. The songs were played well yet it was difficult to not rid oneself of the feeling Mr. Costello had better places to be ( by Diana Krall’s side – for one).

Elvis_Costello © dALIX-FIJM-004

Thank the music Gods Elvis has an acute sense of humor. A British sense of humor. Mocking himself numerous times – none more poignant than introducing one of his hits;  ‘Everyday I Write the Book’.

” Because I like you …” Said Costello. ” I will play this song for you. I hate it. I wrote it it ten minutes and sadly – it became a hit. Now – I must play it all the time …”

That tune was rushed through. Others such as ‘Either Side of the Same Town’ and ‘ Watching the Detectives’ (both Elvis and the Attractions songs) – moderately so. As if Costello has turned the corner on the past. Nice but …what’s next?

Elvis did shine through on the covers he chose …

Nat King Cole’s ‘Walkin’ my Baby Back Home’; sung wistfully and soulfully by Costello. Singing and strumming his one man band into a place dear to him. The same could be said for his rendition of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Shipbuilding’. A nerve hit deep inside Costello. Moments when the show ‘slowed’ to a musical pace.

Elvis - 'Home'
Elvis – ‘Home’

Costello is a storyteller. His tales and observations heightened during tunes such as ‘ Ascension Day’, ‘Ghost Train’ and ‘The Last Year of my Youth.’ No matter the rhythm of an Elvis Tune – there is something melancholy about Costello. Telling tales of his Grandfather’s excursion into America – side-splitting yet with a hint of sadness for another time. A pure reconnaissance of music from all genres.

The show displayed Elvis’ courage, depth and genius. His social conscience on display on ‘ Jimmie Standing in the Rain /  Brother Can You Spare a Dime?’ His guitar playing on display all night.  ‘ Come the Meantime ( a collaboration with The Roots), a display of keeping with the times.

Costello’s show was not perfect. A much more enjoyable experience would have had Costello with a backing band. Then again – with Elvis; who really knows?

A genius keeps them guessing …




Up Next … Burning Spear/ Sly and Robbie and Ginger Baker




Woodkid Press Conference
Woodkid Press Conference















Wanda Jackson – A Legend; Pure and Simple. Part One


Gladys and Vernon Presley‘s son had many monikers.  Movie star,  Elvis ‘the Pelvis’ and ‘The King of Rock n Roll’ – to name but three very important ones. ‘Wanda Jackson‘s boyfriend’ was also a name Elvis toted for a while. Few know it – everyone is impressed when it is discovered…

For Wanda Lavonne Jackson of Maud, Oklahoma –  it was a special time for both her personally and for the start of her musical career.

Wanda and Elvis

“I worked with Elvis from the summer of ’55 to ’57.” Says Wanda. ” I did not do every tour with him but I did do some very long tours with him. Don’t forget – I was very excited at that time to start my own career. We dated and liked each other and all, we had a sweet friendship and cared for each other deeply. At that time there was Jerry Lee Lewis, myself, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbinson – a bunch of guys, we all toured together. All of us became very close friends and cheered each other on as our records began to sell.”

Jackson continues …

“As the years went on, Elvis and I did not keep in touch but I followed his career like everyone else. He got so big – he was in a different world. Like everyone else, I was saddened by what happened to him at the end but I don’t think anyone could have saved him. It is funny – back in the beginning when Elvis starting getting popular and the girls were grabbing him and everything, my Father ( who was Wanda’s manager at the time) said he would have a miserable life. He said that Elvis won’t be able to go out and lead a normal life. My Dad was exactly right …”

Wanda and the rest of the people in question, the ‘men’ in her life, did not realize at the time they were starting something special. Little did they know, they were setting the groundwork for future generations of rockers. They were the pioneers of Rock n Roll …

“All of us were young and just doing our thing, just having fun.” Explains Jackson form her home in Oklahoma City.” At that time, nobody understood young people and they were trying to make it bad what we were doing. They made it devilish – which, of course, it was not. We had no idea what we were starting and I guess we were the pioneers. Myself, I have the distinction of being the first woman in Rockabilly. It is something that makes me proud.”

wanda5Wanda Jackson may be known as the first lady of Rockabilly yet funny enough – it was country music where she enjoyed most of her success starting in the early sixties. A genre of music which explains the roots of Wanda’s career.

“I pretty much gave up on Rock n Roll.” Explains the seventy-five year old Grandmother. ” I could not get any airplay. I did not get my first hit ( in Rock)  until 1960 ( Let’s Have a Party) and I started recording in 1956. I just thought -well, they are not going to play my records and if the fans cannot hear them – they won’t buy them. I switched to country to make some money. I would often make side A on my record a Country song and side B a Rockabilly song. That way I got the best of both worlds and Country music kept me afloat.”

Jackson’s decision paid immediate dividends …

Her early sixties country songs such as “Right or Wrong” and “In The Middle of a Heartache”, both earned her spots in the top ten on the Country charts as well as stays in the Top Forty Pop charts.  Her new -found popularity, forcing Capitol Records to re-release her past Rockabilly / Rocks songs and allow Wanda the freedom to record one last disc for the company. ‘Two Sides of Wanda’ showcased Jackson’s genius as a duel Country and Rock performer. It was a mixture of both genres and has left a permanent mark in the history of music. In 1965, Jackson made the move to country music with an exclamation point. She had a string of Top 40 hits during the next ten years including “Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine” and “The Box it Came In”. Just two examples of what would be many Top Forty hits.

wanda4Jackson was not finished there however.

Her soul somewhat incomplete until she commenced the next chapter in her life. A integration of Gospel music into her repertoire. A genre which is part of the foundation of popular music. ..

‘I became a Christian and was very enthused about that.” Explains Wanda. “The music industry continued to change and was in turmoil really since 1956 on through.  I never intended to divorce Country music – I just wanted to add Gospel.  Capitol did not want it and  they allowed me to  record only one album in Gospel so by my choice – I decided to walk away. I wanted to pursue a more Gospel – oriented career because that’s where my heart was at the time and still is …”

Jackson’s Mother was a devout Christian yet her Father did not ape his partner’s denomination. Her Dad was very encouraging and believed Christianity was the right thing to do although he did not practice it. Wanda also wanted to raise her children in that environment and believes that accepting the Lord in her life in 1971 – is the reason that good things have come her way every since. Things like working with one of Rock’s biggest names – Jack White.


Please stay tuned for Part Two …

Jackson with a Capital X

Right off the bat – any preconceived ideas about Jackson X wanting to knock Justin Bieber off his perch as Canada’s and the world’s number one young male singer are unwarranted.


” I love what he does and I have a lot of respect for him.” Says Jackson X from his home in Oshawa. ” I think it is cool how he teaches young kids to love music. Six year olds will grow up performing and passing it along. It is so cool …!”

Not far removed from being a six year old himself – the fourteen year old is on the brink of a singing career which may place him as Canada’s next Bieber.

According to Jackson’s father, James Begley – the biggest surprise is who Jackson’s fanbase are …

” My son is a cute kid and I figured he would have a lot of young girls following him on Facebook. Funny – it is his peer group, the fourteen and fifteen year old boys who are diggin’ it. They send messages to Jackson telling him how cool his stuff is.”


Begley is taking notice.

Jackson’s dad just happens to own the record company his song belongs to. Maximillion records was started a few months ago and Begley’s only priority is to sign young artists within the same age bracket as his son and who posess talent.

“I get a lot of calls everyday.” Says Begley. “Unfortunately I have not signed anyone yet but I do try to encourage the young artists who apply.”

Begley Sr. is an Elvis impersonator. A job which enables him to take care of his responsibilities as father of Jackson and a younger son who suffers from autism. A condition which makes Jackson smile for the right reason.


“When we are in the car and two of my songs play ( Random Love and She Don’t Feel Me Anymore), my younger brother dances in his seat. It makes him so happy!”

Ironically, it was also in the car where Begley Sr. Iearned of Jackson’s ability to sing.

“Jackson came with me to gigs and one day we were driving home and he started to sing. He was about five years old and I thought ‘he has perfect pitch’.”

Jackson and his father started performing together and now it is a full time job promoting his young son. Dad owns the record company, manages, co- writes and performs with his son on all six tracks available for digital download on ITunes. Not that Jackson requires help in songwriting or playing. The teenager has written about one hundred songs and he can also play all instruments.


Jackson’s influences range from Muse to the Black Keys. Influences which can be found on two of his first six songs released to the public. ‘Random Love’ and ‘She Don’t Feel me Anymore’.

‘Random Love is currently in rotation with six radio stations across Canada. A tune which conjurs up sounds of a Lady Gaga song although Jackson believes its all Muse. ‘She Don’t Feel me Anymore’ is a retro – eighties sound a la Black Keys. A catchy tune with a catchier chorus.

James parlays his experience on to his son. Begley started playing drums in high school and was into a thriving punk scene in Oshawa in the eighties. Begley is in awe of his prolific songwriting son.

“Jackson has written so many songs.”States Begley. ” His strongpoint is writing scores and soundtracks. He has a real feel for that type of thing.”

The father – son pairing are finishing the recording of three new tracks and along with the six already finished, the duo are in a hurry to complete the first cd. Something Begley is convinced will put his son on the map.


In the meantime, the pair have a gig Saturday night as Elvis’ impersonators young and old. Jackson also does a great Richie Valens according to Dad.

That is when he is not
trying to be the next Justin Bieber …

Listen to Jackson X Here!

Elvis …

Elvis Aaron Presley


The man who started cool. The man who started sexy. The man who started all the above in the mainstream of modern music.

In a country where racism pushed the talented bluesmen to the rear of the music stage. People such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Robert Johnson. All – disallowed their rightful places on stage and in their bank accounts.


The forefathers of Rock n Roll …

Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis – all paving the way for a kid from Mississippi to gyrate his way through living room doors and into people’s hearts.

Elvis became the postman. A delivery man for the victims of racism. Consciencely or not – Presley not only carried the ‘negro music’ to the masses, he toted their movements as well. Making it easier for the once banned James Browns of the world to be accepted in the world of stardom.


For this reason, and only this reason – Elvis is the King of Rock n Roll.

A royal title cannot be placed on any one person’s head. There have been far too many cooks who have contributed to the ‘stew’ which is named Rock n Roll.

Chuck Berry alone wrote many songs, more than most – in the opening chapters of the rock Bible. Muddy Waters and Little Richard, contributors of the ten commandments of modern – day Boogie Woogie, heart pounding sexual and sensual sounds of rhythm.

On stage, Elvis was all of them. Onstage Elvis was white.

Racists could enjoy the music they heard and secretly enjoyed from the back porches of the South. Elvis delivered the black contents in a white envelope. Suddenly the ‘masters’ were entertained by the masters …

The Beatles, the Stones, Clapton and the Black Keys … all and everyone in between owe gratitude to Elvis Aaron Presley.

The King of breaking down Rock n Roll walls …