NEW YORK – Has it ever occurred to you that "lives" is an anagram for "Elvis?" Maybe everyone already knows this, and I'm the only one who just figured it out when I saw the logo for NBC's special Elvis Lives.
Although a tad too referential sometimes, at least this NBC special doesn't plumb the cheesy depths that rock award shows inevitably do when they fawn over aging rockers like they're prophets, not entertainers who've had more sex, more women, more fun, and more needles in their arms than a tattoo parlor full of Tommy Lees and Pamela Andersons.
Hosted by Chris Isaak (wearing Elvis' leather suit which he owns), the show's a nice combination of current stars doing fantastic renditions of Elvis classics (No Doubt, Dave Mathews, Chris Isaak with LeAnn Rimes, and Norah Jones).
Plus, Bono and, oddly enough, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the other "Elvis," Bill Clinton, give their insights or lack thereof about the King. Clinton, by the way, says, "Ah felt a specshul relationship to Elvis." It must be the fried banana sandwiches.
There is a lot of raw footage of young Elvis in action, which is breathtaking. But then again so was young Elvis. Even Bruce Springsteen says, "He was the most beautiful rock star there ever was." And he was -- probably even more beautiful than Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.
There's also some interesting talk by the rockers about how innovative and daring Elvis was, and when taken into the context of the times, his performances were absolutely astounding.
Of course, Elvis was the first white rocker to move like that and sing like that and behave like that. His moves were even censored on The Ed Sullivan Show, and his dancing was called disgusting and sexual.
One of the rockers points out how tame these moves are by today's standards. To prove it, they show all kinds of gyrating singers. All women by the way. It's still not common to see men move like that on stage, and if they do, as the boy bands tried to do and as Carson Daly points out, they mostly look fake and laughable. You can't fake that. And you sure can't bottle it, baby.
Even the black stars like Little Richard, whose music was cribbed by the king, admit to his unique style.
During the last days of Elvis, when he was the size of a house, he still set a style being copied today. As Chuck D points out, "He wore more gleam than most hip hop artists today." While some of them have the girth, most of them, have so far, thank God, avoided white jumpsuits with bat collars.
Elvis footage aside, the best part of the show are the covers by today's stars who each take an Elvis classic and makes it their own. Norah Jones' version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" is so haunting, it breaks your heart.
As Sheryl Crowe says, "There's just none of that vulnerability and male sexuality being manned on stage anymore."
You mean that Justin Timberlake is no Elvis? Who knew?
Elvis Lives: Thursday at 10 on NBC