In Tune With Elvis

npThe commencement of a new year signifies many things for many different people.

For the folks in Atlantic Canada who also happen to be fans of Elvis Presley, the new year means that celebrated Elvis tribute artist and Moncton resident Thane Dunn will soon be passing through their cities and towns.

Dunn has an enviable track record, which includes a few prestigious awards that are a testament to the great care the singer has taken in paying tribute to one of his idols.

Dunn has been busy performing through many Maritime communities over the course of the last few weeks, performing to capacity crowds in virtually every city he touches down in.

“These shows have really been something special,” Thane says. “Never have I done something I have been more proud of. The comments and feedback that we have received on the shows this tour have been amazing. I’ve spoken with some people who say that they don’t consider themselves to be fans of Elvis but that they would come back and see the show tomorrow if they had the option.”

Given the success of his annual Elvis birthday tour, some might expect that Thane has settled into a routine where he simply rehashes the same show year after year. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Thane studies old Elvis videos with an intensity that far surpasses how the casual fan would approach viewing the same video. Getting the mannerisms and stage persona just right is of vital importance.

One of the biggest changes over the past couple of years has been the way Thane has taken to singing while on stage.

“I’ve heard from a number of people that they feel as though my voice has gotten stronger,” he says. “Included in the set list on this year’s birthday tour are some songs that could have been challenging for me had I not changed the way that I was singing.

“I have always taken these performances seriously but over the past couple of years, I have put extra emphasis on taking the shows to another level. (I’ve) become more accustomed to running the business aspects of the show, which has in turn allowed me more time to be able to really dive headfirst into studying all these little things about Elvis that haven’t yet been incorporated into the show.”

Fine tuning his repertoire of Elvis material has been a key component to the ongoing success of Thane’s annual shows. As in previous years, Thane has kept Elvis standards such as “Suspicious Minds” in the set while ensuring some fresh material is added.

Inspired by last summer’s win at Collingwood, Ont.’s World Largest Elvis Gospel Competition, Thane performed his first all-gospel Elvis shows just prior to Christmas. The reception afforded to some of those songs in that concert inspired him to incorporate a couple of gospel songs into the Elvis Birthday Tour.

While Thane might be the main attraction for all those in attendance at his shows, he is quick to credit the musicians he works with as helping make the shows such a success. This year’s tour marks the second yearof working with this specific group of musicians as his backing band. He says that at this point, the eight-piece band that accompanies him on stage every night is a well-oiled machine.

Elvis was a very spontaneous kind of performer,” Thane says. “In many cases, he didn’t tend to perform his songs the exact same way twice. That is a luxury I have with my band as well; none of us want to do the exact same show night after night. The band and I thrive off the crowd so if everyone is having a really great time, it’s nothing for us to make sudden changes to the set list as we go to match the energy we are getting from the crowd.”

In what he hopes will also become an annual tradition with his Moncton-area show, Thane is donating a portion of the proceeds of the show at Casino New Brunswick to the Friends of The Moncton Hospital. Those funds will be matched by Casino New Brunswick.

Inspired by the great care that the hospital staff gave his father prior to the elder Dunn losing his battle with cancer, Thane acknowledges that giving back to The Moncton Hospital is something that holds great personal meaning for him.

“The staff at The Moncton Hospital was incredible to my father when he was fighting cancer,” Thane says. “Shortly after my father passed, my wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Fortunately, she made a full recovery, but it was the staff at the hospital that again made a huge impression upon all of us.”

If his success were to grind to a halt tomorrow, one gets the feeling in speaking with Thane that he would be nothing but grateful as he looked back upon almost a full decade performing the music of Elvis Presley before tens of thousands of fans.

“Word of mouth seems to be doing wonders for me,” he marvels. “I have had the opportunity to speak with folks who have gone to the shows based solely upon the recommendations of others. Night after night, the show is getting better and better. It amazes me just how much people like what we are doing. I’m so very grateful for all I’ve been given.”

Article published in the January 24, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript