Trent Carlini at the Rosemont Theatre

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
January 10, 2000

If you closed your eyes and just listened to the voice, it was easy enough to imagine that you were at an Elvis Presley concert Saturday night at the Rosemont Theatre.

Heck, even after you opened your eyes, the simulation by Presley stylist Trent Carlini was so good that it was difficult not to get caught up in the hysteria that permeated the concert.

The Chicago-born Carlini performed on what would’ve been Presley’s 65th birthday. But because Elvis died young and still relatively pretty, our lasting image of him isn’t that of a gray-haired, Social Security recipient–but rather a vital, sexy performer who kick-started rock ‘n’ roll.

Carlini’s two-hour plus concert was divided into three sets. He started with a re-creation of Presley’s ” ’68 Comeback Special.” Clad in a tight, black leather ensemble, he had Presley’s routine down pat, from the swivel-hipped grinds to the sexiest air guitar this side of, well, Presley. And though he is no doppelganger for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Carlini has perfected Presley’s facial expressions and physical mannerisms so well that he more often than not appears to be Elvis.

And as for the voice, it’s strong enough to fool even the most die-hard of Elvis aficionados. Whether he was tackling “Blue Suede Shoes” or gently caressing the spoken word bit from “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” Carlini did a convincing job of capturing Presley’s rich voice.

Backed by a taut 13-piece band, Carlini closed the show re-enacting Presley’s 1972 concert at Madison Square Garden. This time, he strutted onstage wearing a studded white, flared bodysuit. Limber and lean, he went through all the favorites: “All Shook Up,” “Suspicious Minds” and a heartbreaking rendition of “Impossible Dream.”

By this time, screaming women were lined up at the stage vying for his attention, as well as the sweat-drenched scarves he was tossing. The sight of grown women grabbing scarves out of the hands of children was just strange.

The low point of the show occurred in the middle set. While Carlini changed costumes, his sister came onstage for two solos. Hey, this wasn’t part of the deal. Presley never brought his (non-existent) sister out to sing with him.

And just when things looked as though they were going to return to all things Elvis, Carlini appeared back onstage–dressed like a normal dude rather than the King–and sang 15 minutes worth of Presley songs that he updated with hip-hop beats and Eminem-style rapping. The booing started during “Fever.” Not even the four scantily clad backup dancers could deflect the crowd’s disappointment.

The fact is, Carlini has a superb voice and shouldn’t have a difficult time launching a solo career that’s not Presley related. But this wasn’t the forum to test those waters. This was a crowd that didn’t know Eminem from M&M’s. But then again, it’s likely that Elvis wouldn’t have known the difference either.


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