The “new kid on the block,” Justin Shandor, certainly earned his spot among the pros. Watching him perform, it was hard to believe that he’s only eighteen years old – just one year younger than Elvis Presley was when he became a star. The first time I had seen Justin perform was in Las Vegas. It was near the end of his first song before I was truly convinced that he wasn’t lip-synching. I’m sure the future has great things in store for this young man.
Ryan Pelton was certainly not the shy guy that I saw walk out onto that very same stage for the first time five years ago. I remember thinking then that he almost seemed too bashful to look out into the audience. This year was quite a different story. He came out with all the confidence of a seasoned professional. You could actually see and feel the excitement of the crowd. Ryan did the “movie years” and the ’68 Comeback in the black leather….WOW!! (Sorry, just couldn’t help myself!).
Shawn Klush was awesome, as always! His performance of “Hurt” was as good as it gets. His voice was so smooth and rich. When Shawn is on stage, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and to just imagine yourself sitting at an Elvis concert in Las Vegas. The audience gave him his usual standing ovation at the completion of “How Great Thou Art.”
D. J. Fontana is always a joy to watch. I couldn’t help but wonder as he was playing the drums for these performers, if his mind was going back to 1956 when another young man stood in front of him captivating his audience.
Dan Lentino and the Fabulous Ambassadors backed the stars with all the traditional Elvis hot licks in their usual professional manner. A popular gospel group from Canada, Rivington Station, was a natural on background vocals. It was obvious that the ETAs enjoyed working with them.
Justin, Ryan and Shawn were quite a trio of entertainers and will be a tough act to follow. Personally, I’m hoping for a “three-peat” next year!! Only 11 ½ more months to wait!