LIVE REVIEW: Elvana @ O2 Ritz, Manchester (14/03/2020)

Credit: Promo

Date: March 14th 2020
Venue: O2 Ritz, Manchester
Support: Haggard Cat


The hybridisation of Elvis Presley and Nirvana into one sole tribute band is a crossover that honestly no one ever asked for, but Elvana are here to clash these two together regardless.

Explained a bit more specifically as “Elvis fronted Nirvana“, the quintet from the fictional location of Disgraceland (actually Newcastle, but oh well, whatever, nevermind) have in recent years quickly become a more prominent name within rock circles, ascending from your clubs and pubs to bigger stages. Last year, they even performed on Download Festival‘s second stage.

Tours are getting cancelled left, right, and center thanks to coronavirus, but this one presses on, with Haggard Cat [7] handed the task of injecting some energy early. The duo keep the crowd, who are undeniably all here for the main act, entertained and captivated with songs like the riff-tastic ‘Bone Shaker’.

Their second album ‘Common Sense Holiday’ is just a day old at this stage, and they manage to showcase some fresh cuts like ‘The Native’ and ‘First Words’, the latter of which live sounds like Death From Above, except roughed up around the edges and injected some extra volatility. If that wasn’t enough, they wrap things up with frontman Matt Reynolds running along the barrier and shaking his guitar at members of the crowd before getting back onstage where drummer Tom Marsh smashes his hi-hat cymbal with… well, another cymbal. In short, this pair are far from haggard.

Bringing two of the biggest names in rock history back from the dead, Elvana [8] are literally the only way you’re going to see and relive songs from both Elvis and Nirvana live almost simultaneously. Frontman Elvis Cobain is an amalgamation of the two iconic rock frontmen; Presley‘s black hair at Kurt‘s shoulder length, with red tips a la the ‘Come As You Are’ video, whilst donning some Kurt sunglasses, a blue Presley glitzed up jump suit, and some Vans to boot.

It really is a clashing of two worlds from the start of the set to the very end. Elvis Cobain admits midway through “sometimes I sound like Nicholas Cage, sometimes I sound like Matthew McConaughey, sometimes I sound like Bob Ross, if you’re lucky I sometimes sound like Kurt Cobain, but I never sound like Elvis Presley.” He’s not far off the mark either, but that’s part of their schtick. Songs like ‘Stay Away’ and ‘Drain You’ does see him add a bit of twang, and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘A Little Less Conversation’ gets the room singing in unison, but when we arrive at their mash up of ‘Scentless Apprentice’ and ‘Hound Dog’, his Kurt-esque screams in the chorus are surprisingly impressive.

On the subject of mash ups, there are plenty of moments where the band combine two songs from each of the artists they replicate to create something that is so crazy it works. ‘Breed’ closes off with a snippet of ‘Viva Las Vegas’, ‘School’ and ‘In The Ghetto’ meet each other eye-to-eye at one point, and the cut and shunt work of ‘Rape Me’ and ‘Love Me Tender’ is odd but nonetheless entertaining.

If you didn’t think that you’d ever see a circle pit to ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ then you need to experience an Elvana concert, because that’s exactly what happened, though Elvis Cobain urges the crowd to stay safe in there, because it should be safe “like a condom.” Indeed, humour (if you didn’t assume already) is a key part in their set; at any given moment the vocalist is gyrating like you’d expect of Presley, or inserting the odd ad lib between lyrics.

The band are joined up by two back-up singers, known only as Charlotte and Stephanie, who add some extra harmony and pep to the likes of ‘Drain You’ and ‘Stay Away’. At one point, whilst Elvis Cobain is off for a quick costume change (into another glammed up jumpsuit, of course), the two take the duties of lead vocals for a Hole cover before going into a makeshift Miss World contest, seeing the rest of the band dress up as women with a few jokes about bassist Rob Novoselic for good measure.

Elvana close up with ‘Lithium’, which sees the room bouncing from front to back (including a bunch of fans up on the balcony), and ‘All Apologies’, the latter of which sees the biggest sing-along of the night. In turn, it proves that though this tribute act are obviously not to be taken too seriously, their regular blasts of nostalgia and dashes of comedy leave a grin from ear-to-ear from the moment they hit the stage ’til the moment that they leave. That’s all you could want from any gig, especially in times like the present.