Friday night, the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater will play host to a special one night only show called “Elvis Unplugged starring Dean Z.”
According to Z, “Elvis Unplugged” is his vision of what Elvis Presley headlining MTV’s “Unplugged” show may have looked like.
“Think the ‘1968 Comeback Special’ mixed with Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged’ from 1993, except based around Elvis’ extensive music catalogue,” Z said. “We’ll do a ton of B-sides, and tunes the I’ve never even done in public before. We’re doing stuff like ‘Baby Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming,’ ‘Change of Habit’ ... ‘The Girl of My Best Friend,’ which is from my favorite Elvis Album, ‘Elvis is Back’ from 1960. It’s really deep, and we’re doing some cool tunes.
“Of course, we’ll also cover the tunes everyone wants to hear, like ‘Kentucky Rain,’ ‘Suspicious Minds’ and things like that.”
For more than a decade, Z was the “resident Elvis” at the “Legends in Concert” show. After capturing the 2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Championship during “Elvis Week” in Memphis, Tennessee, Z began headlining “Legends” venues across the country, as well as numerous festivals and touring productions the world over. He also serves as the online host for Elvis Presley Enterprises during “Elvis Week.”
As his success as an entertainer and personality grew, so did his creativity. Before too long, he combined his life, love, passion and influences to create his own concert and show experiences. He has performed both “The Dean Z Show,” as well as “Dean Z’s Rockin’ Christmas.”
Z was originally set to perform a different show as part of the 14th annual Branson Elvis Festival, which has since been rescheduled for April 7-11, 2021. Due to the current state of social distancing and “Covid capacity,” Z decided on putting “Elvis Unplugged” together, which he says will be quite the intimate affair.
“We’ve been doing these lockdown jam sessions from home during the entire pandemic, and now we’re bringing it to a stage,” he said. “Of course that means we’re bringing up the standards and production, but it will still feel intimate. The concept of ‘Elvis Unplugged’ is very cool to me. It will be presented in a ‘jam’ format, so rugs, candles and that sort of vibe.”
The band will feature Danny Z on guitar, Austin Wilson on bass, Dino Phillips on drums, and the vocal talents Z’s wife Stephanie, as well as “Miss” Tammi Savoy.
Z said there are still tickets available, but they expect to reach capacity soon.
“The capacity fluctuates based on the number of groups, so a family of five would be one group, then we space,” he said. “So we’re looking at about 300 people, which will help give it that intimate vibe.”
Even though only a small amount of folks will be able to experience the show in person, Z said he partnered with online streaming venue Backyard Panda to offer a fully produced live stream for those unable to get tickets.
“The cool thing about it is this will be the first time I’ve done a professionally streamed show,” he said. “That way the people who can’t join us in person can have a virtual, digital experience.”
According to Z, those wanting to watch the show from the comfort of their own home can pay $4.99 and get “multiple camera angles,” as well as high-quality audio stream.
“People are used to watching Facebook Live broadcasts, with one camera and everyone looking like ants,” he said. “This is going to look like a fully produced television show concert, and it’s so great because people from all around the world are going to be able to watch this show. We’ve already sold streams in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England. Even though we’re performing in a socially distanced venue, we should have more than 2,000 people experiencing this concert together, even though we’re not in the same place.
“For less than a cup of coffee and you’ll get a unique experience, as well as help raise funds for a great cause.”
That cause is the Cincinnati School of Creative and Performing Arts, a K-12 public school focusing on the arts.
“I’ve been there three times for benefit shows, and obviously, we couldn’t be there this year,” he said. “So we chose to do it with this show.”
He also said he can’t ever remember being this excited to get back on that stage.
“This is my first show since March, and I have never had that much time away from the stage in my adult life,” he said. “I think people will really dig it. People are so hungry for some normalcy, and to get out, and to be entertained and have social interaction, so we’re offering the best of both worlds.
“We’ll have a great crowd in the venue, but for those who can’t reach us, we’re bringing it to them in the palm of their hand.”
Showtime is 8 p.m.