Rus Anderson has got Elton John down, from his sound to his look to his moves. The Clearwater-based performer will have to prove just how well he’s captured the iconic singer when he competes on Clash of the Cover Bands, a new competition show premiering on E! on Oct. 13.
The show pits two cover bands of similar genres head-to-head in each episode to compete for $10,000. At the end of the season, the winner will receive $25,000 and the opportunity to perform on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
Grammy Award winner Meghan Trainor, Queen frontman Adam Lambert and singer-songwriter Ester Dean are the judges. The show is hosted by Stephen “tWitch” Boss.
Since 2009, Anderson, 41, has performed his Elton John tribute across the nation under the moniker the Rocket Man Show. The show re-creates John’s 1970s concerts, with stage sets and elaborate costumes designed by Anderson’s wife, Somali Rose.
In 2017, Anderson was handpicked by John himself as his official body double for promotional videos and photographs for the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. Anderson, who hails from Scotland, re-created John’s 1970 performance at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and his 1975 concert at Dodgers Stadium. Using virtual and augmented reality, the videos fill in the holes of missing footage from those concerts.
Anderson met John during that time, which he said was a “dream come true.”
While the Rocket Man Show had a solid reputation before his involvement with John, places that wouldn’t normally hire tribute acts started to book it. The pandemic affected many of the bookings, but they’re mostly being rescheduled, Anderson said. The Rocket Man Show will play at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Feb. 18, 2022.
When the opportunity for Clash of the Cover Bands arose, Anderson “jumped at the chance.” He views performing for a wide television audience as a win, no matter the outcome. He hopes the exposure will encourage audiences to come to his live shows.
“The fact that it was a competition, that I can see is going to be great television,” he said.
On one hand, he said he likes competition, but on the other, many of the competitors are his friends.
“We all have a really high level of respect for each other,” he said.
He considers himself to be representing the whole tribute act industry in the competition.
“All these tribute acts, the amount of work that we put in, I think is often very underappreciated,” he said. “I’m really happy that there are opportunities like these ... for tribute artists. That in a way is a lot more rewarding for me than anything else.”
While the competition was nerve-racking, Anderson said the camaraderie between the artists made it fun and lighthearted.
“I got lucky because with Elton John, his performances, and his character ... he was so zany almost on stage, he never took himself seriously,” he said. “So, I was able to relieve a lot of that stress, just by having a real riot on stage and just having a real good time. I think with Elton John, you do get a lot of freedom to just go crazy. ... I was able to give 100 percent and just let the energy get me through the nerve part.”
While he doesn’t know exactly when his episode of Clash of the Cover Bands will air, Anderson said to expect a lot of surprises.
“If ever there was a time where I would really want everyone to gather together with their family with a whole bunch of snacks and goodies and popcorn, that would be to sit and watch this amazing TV show,” he said. “Because it is going to be a crazy experience and anyone who not only loves tribute acts but loves any of these artists in general, they’re just going to have the time of their life.”