Elvana: More than just a Lounge Act

An Elvis fronted Nirvana tribute band has all the attributes of a thin, mildly amusing party trick. So how have they managed to pull off a slot at Download festival and a regular touring cycle around O2 arenas across the country?

Any idea of a cheesy novelty act was soon blown out of the water, just as soon as the opening chords of Territorial Pissings rang out through the arena, this, followed by In Bloom, set the tone for the night. Less novelty and more of a genuine Nirvana tribute/love fest. Elvana cover songs from the whole of the brief but brilliant Nirvana back catalogue, with their cover of Love Buzz being a crowd favourite. Smells like Teen Spirit sent the crowd into a predictable frenzy, however, it was their exploration into the punkier side of Nirvana i.e. Sliver that stood out the most. But it isn’t all about Nirvana, with Elvis slipping in some of his classics in between songs. As well as delivering a few surprising mash-ups in between. While Breed/Viva Las Vegas and Scentless Apprentice/Hound dog work alarmingly well, Rape Me/Love me tender misses the mark completely. As does their encore, which consisted of a Miss World contest starring the band in drag.

The real take from this concert is the quality of Nirvana’s back catalogue, particularly Kurt Cobain’s songwriting. It just took an Elvis impersonator to remind me. This will be the closest thing to a Nirvana gig many fans will get to taste. Kurt Cobain is irreplaceable, but by not trying to impersonate him, Elvana has avoided that elephant in the room and created an atmosphere where the music did the talking. This is in part thanks to the musicianship of the band, particularly the tone of “Danny Cobain’s” guitar. There were times that I forgot that I wasn’t in a Nirvana gig, and looking at the circle pits, I wasn’t the only one. The show ended with a couple of Nirvana Unplugged covers, which shows Elvana at their worst. Elvana’s version of Where did you sleep last night was less intimate and more Dad karaoke. But at their best, Elvana is a rip-roaring pilgrimage that all Nirvana fans must make.

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