Riverbend: Elton-alike brings piano glam to Unum Stage (June 7)

Riverbend: Elton-alike brings piano glam to Unum Stage (June 7)

June 6th, 2013 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music

Craig Meyer's Almost Elton John show

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

LINEUP

Michael Lamond: bass/music director

Danny Howes: guitar

Guy Strauss: drums

Pat Strawser: keyboards

Kelly Fletcher: vocals

Jevares Myrick: vocals

Findlay Hansard: vocals

ELTON JOHN'S NO. 1 HITS

1972: "Crocodile Rock"

1974: "Bennie and the Jets," "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"

1975: "Philadelphia Freedom," "Island Girl"

1976: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"

1991: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

1997: "Something About the Way You Look Tonight," "Candle In the Wind 1997"

"I lovingly call him my 'superhero' alter ego. I step in a phone booth and walk out wearing a cape. I'm still Craig, but I'm also this other entity."

- Craig "Almost Elton John" Meyer

IF YOU GO

What: Almost Elton John

When: 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 7

Where: Unum Stage

Admission: Riverbend pin ($32 in advance, $45 at gate) or $26 one-night wristband

Phone: 423-756-2211

Website: www.riverbendfestival.com

In the world of musical homages, there are tribute artists, cover bands and impersonators, but Craig Meyer's Almost Elton John show is something else entirely.

"Really, I'm an illusionist," says Meyer, who for the last five years has used smoke, mirrors, sequins and platform heels to convince audiences that he's the next closest thing to the British pop superstar.

"I lovingly call [Almost Elton] my 'superhero' alter ego," he adds. "I step in a phone booth and walk out wearing a cape. I'm still Craig, but I'm also this other entity. It's fun to step into somebody else's heels for a while, if you will."

Friday night, June 7, Meyer and his backing group, the Rocket Band, will bring pop classics such as "Tiny Dancer," "Bennie and the Jets" and "Levon" to Riverbend's Unum Stage.

Growing up, Meyer says, he never doubted that he was destined for the stage. His parents tell him he "sang before [he] spoke," and the passion for performance he developed was crucial to breaking into new social circles as his family followed his father, a Lutheran minister, around the world.

Meyer taught himself to play piano in elementary school by listening to and replicating melodies by pop piano greats such as John, Billy Joel and Barry Manilow. A passionate dancer and singer, his broad skill set has landed him spots in Broadway companies for Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Starlight Express" and "Cats" as well as film and TV acting jobs and positions in touring companies alongside Manilow and Frankie Valli.

The decision to don the platform shoes as Almost Elton John came after crowds responded enthusiastically to his performance of a pair of John's songs during a benefit at a theater in Atlanta, where he is based.

"There were people who came up to me afterward who said, 'There were moments when I could close my eyes, and I could have sworn I was listening to Elton John,' " he says. "It was like, 'Huh. I never really thought of this in that way.' "

After a quick shopping trip through Atlanta's Little Five Points district, he put together the first of what would eventually become 20 stage costumes, each more over-the-top than the last. After working up a set and putting feelers out, he began performing as Almost Elton. He now performs about 30 times annually and has made appearances as far away as Las Vegas, California and Turkey.

As much as he enjoys wowing audiences with his costumes -- the average show includes three or four wardrobe changes -- Meyer says the driving force behind Almost Elton John is helping people reconnect with music they often associate with significant moments.

"You have generations of families at these shows, and they all have a different connection to the music and to a time in their lives that was important to them," he says. "Everybody has a different connection to the music, but it's all still very personal. I get to be a part of that magic."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.