The French Meet Stig Edgren - Translated by Suzanne R. Planeix-Graf
Translator's note: The French fan club 'Elvis My Happiness' is relatively new on the Elvis scene, but it is already well-known in Europe, thanks to a dedicated boutique in the heart of Paris, the release of several great CDs in cooperation with BMG France, and the publication of a beautiful coffee-table book simply entitled Elvis a Paris.
The club, founded in 1992, now counts 2,500 members, and organizes various events in Paris throughout the year, as well as trips to the U.S. The fanzine, a quarterly publication, is only further proof of the club's enthusiasm for, and commitment to, Elvis. In the June issue, the fan club president, Jean-Marie Pouzenc, together with Sandrine Henry, interviewed Stig Edgren on the occasion of the coming to Paris of 'Elvis - The Concert' in March 2000.
Here now is the English translation of the interview.
The first time Stig Edgren collaborated with Graceland was in 1994, when he was instrumental in organizing the show 'Elvis - The Tribute' at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis. Then in August 1997, he produced the spectacular concert at the Mid-South Coliseum to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Elvis' death. Since that date, he has produced all the tours of 'Elvis - The Concert'.
The producer of the 23rd Olympic Games in Los Angeles is well-known both in the States and abroad: he has staged major events for religious and political figures such as Pope Paul II and U.S. Presidents Reagan and Clinton, as well as for performers like Gloria Esteban, Cher and Natalie Cole and the groups Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire. He is undoubtedly an authority in his field, but he is also a nice guy who very willingly answered our questions.
EMH: Thank you for having 'Elvis - The Concert' come to Paris!
Stig Edgren: We thank you, too. It wouldn't have been possible without you. I've already told you this and you didn't believe me, but it's true. It was a pleasure for us all.
EMH: We're especially pleased after all the problems there were in March [The concert was supposed to take place on March 1st, but had to be canceled at the last minute beccuse the venue unexpectedly had to close down. A new venue had then to be found, and the concert finally took place on March 23rd, at the close of the European tour.] We're so glad that everything worked out well!
SE: Yes, we too are delighted that the tour finished here! We are really happy. Very happy. Now we can go back home with pleasant thoughts and fond memories.
EMH. What did you think of the tour? Is it right that it's the longest you've had with Elvis - The Concert?
SE: Yes, it was long but it went really well. The audience's reaction was fantastic all over. This makes us want to do more and makes us proud of what we've done. I watch the audience every time, and I say to myself: we're obviously doing something worthwhile. And we shall continue to do so for as long as possible.
EMH: Do you know how many people saw the show during the European tour?
SE: Approximately 100,000 during this tour! Yes, just a little under 100,000 people altogether.
EMH: What were the highlights of the tour?
SE: Our premiere in Hamburg was fantastic, because we presented three new songs. We showed "Are You Lonesome Tonight" for the first time. The audience's reaction that evening was definitely one of the highlights. [....] Rotterdam was great, London was great. The Scottish audience was very, very good. And the audience in Paris was much better than we expected. It was really very motivating for us.
EMH: We also saw the concert in 1997. As you yourself said, there have been a number of changes and improvements since then. We think that the show has reached the top level, but do you think that you could still make improvements?
SE: There is always room for improvement. As professionals, we always notice details here and there that need attention, and we continuously fine-tune the concert by working on those details. As a concert, the show is now much better than it was in 1997. That first production was a marathon, it was a variety show. It was a 4-hour marathon, but we had Priscilla, we had Lisa, we had Scotty Moore, we had the Jordanaires.... It was a great evening. It was a special evening [....] The show as it is now is a "hardcore" concert. An authentic concert. The top of the tops.
EMH: Who selects the songs?
SE: All of us. I work out some ideas and discuss them with the cast to find out which songs work for them and which don't. And then we add the finishing touches. Of course, I also talk with Todd Morgan (Graceland) and he gives us his blessing for some songs. Joe Guercio is also involved, obviously. We really work together as a team. In other words, I prepare the basic outline and then I ask: Well, what do you think? And we make changes here and there until everybody feels ready.
EMH: Do you look for the scene footage after you've selected the songs, or is it the other way around?
SE: I have to choose the songs based on the concert footage that I know exists. [....] I watch all the footage and select the songs that would do well in the concert. Then I make a list and call the guys over to ask them what they think. They generally agree, but they also have their own ideas.
EMH: We understand that the Elvis/Lisa duet was a gift from Lisa to the fans who attended the concert in 1997. Have you ever considered integrating the video clip in the tour?
SE: We've always wanted to include the duet, but since Lisa is now starting her own career, so it would probably not be a very good idea from her point of view. What's important is that Lisa did that as a unique gift for her father and for his fans. It was a very special evening for her and she said that that was it. No commercial release. Nothing. It's true that we've received a lot of phone calls, e-mails and faxes saying "We want to see the video", but it was really just a one-time event.
EMH: Do you have other projects for the coming months?
SE: The concert will tour the States again, then we're off to Australia and Japan. We don't know yet whether we'll be able to return to Europe. If everything works out well and everybody feels good about it, we would like to return, perhaps for just one more time. That would be the farewell tour. But we don't know for sure yet.
EMH: Do you think that the concept of a virtual concert could be applied to other performers?
SE: Yes, but not as well. My office has been contacted by the relatives of Judy Garland, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin et Karen Carpenter, but they don't have the necessary video footage and multi-track recordings. Also, I don't think that any of those artists has the necessary charisma to give a two-hour concert. They're all great performers, but I think that only Elvis could be on stage for 2 hours and have the audience shouting at the end.
EMH: We've read that the concert is in the Guinness Book of Records as "the first live tour starring a performer who is no longer living"....
EMH: That's unbelievable!
SE: I know! EMH: Stig, thank you very much for everything, for your patience and for the time you took to give us this interview.
SE: I thank you, too. Thank you very much.
Needless to say, the concert was an unqualified success in Paris, with approximately 8,000 fans shouting and swinging to the music. As with the concerts I attended in Germany, I can never cease wondering at the universality of Elvis' appeal, which has little to do with the words of his songs and everything to do with the man himself and the way he sang.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Jean-Marie Pouzenc and the team of Elvis My Happiness for their support.
Munich, September 6, 2000
Suzanne R. Planeix-Graf
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