There is arguably no bigger solo artist in music history than Elvis Presley. Last night (Feb. 17), NBC celebrated the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ legendary ’68 Comeback Special by airing its “Elvis All-Star Tribute Special.”
Hosted by Blake Shelton, a long list of artists representing multiple decades and genres turned out to honor the late, great King of Rock and Roll. While no one can truly rival his original renditions, the All-Star Tribute artists offered up incredible, heartfelt renditions of the songs Elvis performed on that special five decades ago.
It was particularly poignant to see clips of Elvis performing songs in his unforgettable black leather outfit. It was also nice to hear insightful commentary from his former wife, Priscilla Presley, their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, and their granddaughter. It was also wonderful to see his iconic songs interpreted by a new crop of music superstars across multiple generations.
While it was incredibly tough to narrow down the overall stellar performances, we compiled a list of the Top 7 best performances from NBC’s Elvis All-Star Tribute below.
Adam Lambert has amazing vocal power and range. He sounded incredible on this track, which was recorded as one of Elvis’ first singles on RCA records and released back in 1956. The song is frequently branded as “rockabilly,” mixing elements of blues, rock, and country. Lambert’s sense of showmanship was spot on for his performance as he strutted and shimmied around the stage sporting his own pair of blue suede shoes to honor the song.
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” is one of Elvis Presley’s most treasured and timeless ballads. It was featured in his 1961 film “Blue Hawaii” and again in recent years in the 2014 animated movie, “The Book of Life.” The song is soft, sweet and romantic and that’s exactly what Ed Sheeran delivered, with backing from a youth choir in Nashville. Sheeran is arguably one of the best scribes of love songs in the current generation. This classic love song flowed through him so naturally and authentically it could have very easily been his own song.
5. John Legend – “A Little Less Conversation”
Diehard Elvis fans won’t soon forget his run of musical movies and “A Little Less Conversation” was featured in the 1968 film “Almost in Love.” Elvis is and always will be the King of Rock and Roll, and this track was a fun, flirty uptempo song that drove his fans wild. In short, John Legend nailed it. He injected the perfect blend of soul and rock into his rendition. It was fun to see him let loose and groove to it. He earns a solid A+!
Elvis could deliver a bluesy, sultry song like no other and his version of “Baby What You Want Me to Do” from his ’68 Comeback Special marks a sizzling hot example. Keith Urban and Post Malone absolutely slayed their collab performance of it. They were funky, bluesy, sultry, and fun. Plus, Urban is arguably one of the best guitar players in the current country music landscape. His extended guitar solo was off the chain and the performance presented a side to Post Malone we haven’t seen. These boys just rocked it.
3. Mac Davis – “Memories”
Though Elvis fans probably found plenty of Kleenex-ready moments in this special, Mac Davis easily brought one of the most endearing. The legendary songwriter penned several of Elvis’ songs and knew him well.
When Blake Shelton asked him to share something memorable about Elvis, he recounted a time when he went to Elvis’ home in Bel Air, California. He mimicked Elvis’ voice as he described how he asked him, “You want to see my baby?” He held Lisa Marie when she was just a few weeks old and told Shelton he’ll never forget it.
Davis proceeded to perform “Memories,” which he co-wrote with Billy Strange, specifically for the Comeback Special. A reel of home movies showing Elvis through all ages and stages of his life played in the background, as it did when Elvis performed it. It was just beautiful.
Lisa Marie Presley introduced the gospel portion of the special by calling attention to her father’s deep love of gospel music. Many of his fans still cherish Elvis’ gospel songs best. There arguably couldn’t have been two more angelic voices to deliver the moving, inspirational gospel medley than Carrie Underwood and Yolanda Adams.
Underwood sang a breathtaking version of “How Great Thou Art,” followed by a stunning rendition of “He Touched Me” by Adams. They came together for a tear-inducing duet of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” backed by a choir. It was absolutely extraordinary and truly one of the most beautiful, memorable moments of the night.
Fans and critics far and wide will likely never forget Elvis Presley’s moving, explosive “If I Can Dream” performance to close out his ’68 Comeback Special. Producer Steve Binder told Priscilla Presley during the tribute that Elvis only performed the song one time, for that special. Elvis recorded the inspirational anthem two months after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
The Elvis All-Star Tribute also closed with the song, featuring footage of Elvis’ original performance in his white suit. A selection of tribute artists joined in on the song including Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker, Carrie Underwood, and Blake Shelton. At one point, it appeared Shelton was singing the song in a duet with Elvis. The song put a chill-inducing cap on a wonderful night and earns our pick for the No. 1 performance of the night.