This week marks the 25th anniversary of Nirvana’s final studio album In Utero, and whilst the seminal grunge outfit may no longer be with us, Newcastle’s Elvana has vowed to carry on their legacy one way or another.
I never did get to see Nirvana live. As a teenager back in 1994, myself and a group of friends booked tickets to see the band perform at the Manchester G-MEX, but due to Kurt Cobain’s tragic death, this became the tour that never was. For me, the dream of seeing one of my favourite bands of the time wasn’t meant to be.
Nirvana has a long-standing association with the North East of England. The group actually made their UK debut in Newcastle at the old Riverside on Melbourne Street, before later performing at the now sadly missed Mayfair ballroom.
Now a lot of time has passed since Nirvana’s historic final UK appearance at the Reading Festival back in 1992. To this day, Nirvana’s music continues to inspire both fans and musicians alike. One talented and innovative group who decided to take this to the next level is Elvana – short for Elvis Fronted Nirvana.
Now on paper, this fusion of the King of Rock N Roll and Seattle’s grunge superstars really shouldn’t work. But that’s the beauty of it, for some reason, it just does. Let’s not forget that at times Nirvana didn’t exactly take themselves too seriously. Their performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on Top of the Pops back in 1991 is a testament to this.
When a video of Elvana performing “Aneurysm” surfaced on YouTube, the official Nirvana Facebook page very quickly got behind the band proclaiming ‘The King Lives!’
Elvana has been touring both the UK and the US, whilst building up somewhat of a following on both sides of the pond. The group has come a long way since their debut at one of Tyneside’s favourite watering holes, The Central Bar some years ago. Tonight a packed out crowd in attendance at the O2 Academy to witness their return, many of whom arrive dressed in outfits reflecting either fandom.
Tonight Elvana takes the Tyneside faithful through a set that seamlessly splices grunge anthems with Vegas fuelled rock and roll classics and the Geordies love every minute of it. From the opening bars of the emphatic “Stay Away,” the crowd sings at the tops of their voices wholeheartedly. Early in the set the band seamlessly segue “Jailhouse Rock” into “In Bloom” along with the unlikely combination of “School” into “In The Ghetto”, to great effect.
Often found with one foot up on the monitors at the front of the stage, or in the pit, Elvis Cobain leads the charge with his charisma and hip-shaking swagger. Like a true showman, there’s plenty of room for outfit changes.
By the time the band reaches the hypnotic sounds of “Love Buzz,” Elvis is making his way through the crowd handing out roses to the band’s adoring fans at the front. Of course, the show would not be complete without a few bars of “Viva Las Vegas” which is unapologetically mashed together with “Breed”.
In the latter stages of the show, the band switch things up momentarily with backing vocalists Charlotte and Stephanie taking centre stage to join the rest of the band now known as The Courtneys for a rousing rendition of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin”.
As Elvana hurtles towards the finish line the anthems come in thick and fast including crowd-pleasing airings of “Come As You Are” and “Heart Shaped Box” before the night is brought to a close with one of Elvis Presley’s signature tunes “Burning Love”. The crowd is left wanting more. Alas, ladies and gentlemen, Elvana has left the building and the O2 Academy Newcastle is “All Shook Up”.