By day, Pete Paquette slips into casual business wear and teaches the nuances of the French language to kids. By night, he unleashes his karate kicks and flashy uniforms.
No, Paquette is not a superhero. He is an Elvis tribute artist and a well-decorated one at that.
“The kids are tougher than a regular audience,” he jokes.
Having won some of the top Elvis tribute artist contests (Collingwood twice, best performer at the Las Vegas Elvis Fest, Top 10 at the Ultimate Elvis Contest in Memphis, TN, amongst others) he decided to retire from competing in 2011 and turn his attention to touring. On April 5, he is bringing Elvis — The Moments to Penticton with Rudy and the Angels backing him up.
At 27-years-old, Paquette is a veteran entertainer. He was just six when he saw a commercial on TV for a three VHS box set collection featuring the King and was instantly mesmerized. With the help of his aunt he picked out a wig, got a jumpsuit made and donned sunglasses to perform for his elementary school.
“I don’t know where I got those ideas because I had never seen Elvis before on stage. From that time until I was 16 I basically performed in restaurants, bars, legions, fashion shows and country festivals,” said Paquette from his home in Mississauga, Ont.
It was in 2003 Paquette entered his first contest at the Collingwood Elvis Festival and since then has participated and won in just under 20 major Elvis contests around North America, skyrocketing him to success and great recognition in the business. Coming from a family of musicians, Paquette has a Bachelor of Music that has helped shape his stage performance. Although none of his family were big Elvis fans, the same can’t be said of Paquette.
“I have always been a true Elvis fan first of all,” he said. “I think that is important if you are going to be doing this. It is hard to do a tribute if you are not a fan. The first thing that goes is your interest, so if you are not interested you are not going to do so well.”
Paquette has hung up his cape as far as competing goes, which he said has allowed him to loosen up and have a little more fun on the stage.
“As a competitor you are so focused on the one era that you are doing. You are very meticulous about that one song so you perfect that a lot and perfect your craft a lot as a competitor. When you have your own show the creative juices come out and this is where the true tribute artists excel over others,” said Paquette.
This tribute artist has help from his family to come up with a setlist for his show, which he revamps every year to keep it fresh. Paquette also works with the live band, who will be flying with him for the B.C. tour, to create a high-energy medley of different songs. Elvis — The Moments will also make stops in West Vancouver, Kelowna, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge.
“We have a lot of experience already from our Ontario shows that have given us confidence that what we are bringing is a great product. We work hard to leave an impact on the audiences and a show that when people leave they say, ‘Wow that was great,’” said Paquette.
To stay in the Elvis mindset, Paquette continues to study old videos and recordings to ensure he keeps improving and staying true. One problem, he said, that often comes up is tribute artists copying other tribute artists and losing the true essence of the King.
His touring show is filled with energy, charisma and passion. Paquette’s swivelling hips and vocals tend to shake up the crowd and leave them wanting more. His respect for Elvis, the man and the music, is part of the reason for his success.
“I don’t put myself into the mindset that I am Elvis when I walk on stage because I just can’t do that. I have a lot of respect for Elvis and my personality within the Elvis frame is what people like. The true elements of a great performance, in my opinion, is that I try for the quality that Elvis had. I am confident and smooth when I go up on stage, personality traits that Elvis was loved for and I find that are similar to mine,” said Paquette.
While he wants to keep some of the elements of his show a surprise, Paquette said they have a energetic lineup touching on every era of Elvis’s career along with one of the top Elvis festival bands.
“As we open the show we send people back to Elvis in Las Vegas in 1969 in a completely different outfit than anyone would expect. It is just youthful energy up on stage and that cool Elvis, the smooth Elvis. It is really awesome,” he said. “Nobody will be disappointed by our show.”
Elvis — The Moments featuring Pete Paquette with Rudy and the Angels will be at the Cleland Community Theatre in Penticton on April 5 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets or more information phone 250-490-2426 or at the Penticton Community Centre box office.