Home > Newspaper Articles > 1975 > July 19, 1975 (2.30 pm) Uniondale, NY.

Concert Date: July 19, 1975 (2.30 pm) Uniondale, NY. Nassau Coliseum.

Presley Treats Fans To His Best
by John Rockwell
New York Times
Monday July 21, 1975

Elvis Presley played Madison Square Garden in 1972 for the first and last time. Since then, he has stuck to the suburbs, like most middle-of-the-roaders. Except that, when he wants to, Mr. Presley can still rock, and he felt like rocking a refreshing lot of the time Saturday at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, L.I.

When this observer last saw Mr. Presley, it was also the Nassau Coliseum, two summers ago. Then he was fat, lazy and ineffectual. On Saturday he was still fat-fatter than ever, a blown-up cartoon of his spare nineteen-fifties toughness. But he wasn't lazy, and he most certainly wasn't ineffectual.

Fat or thin, overpowering or futile, he still inspires and accepts the adoration of his fans with the good-humored grace of a king. Mr. Presley's fans may not number all the country these days: His records are not longer guaranteed the top spot on the charts.

Decorum Prevailed

But his concerts still sell out sports arenas months in advance, and his Coliseum audience consisted evenly of people from small children to grandmothers. They were polite and neatly dressed; decorum prevailed before the star's appearance and well-mannered ecstasy when he was onstage. His following probably includes a broader sweep of white Americans that of any other pop performer.

The ritual at any Presley concert has grown ornate with age. Like many other pop stars these days , he announces his imminent arrival with the Richard Strauss fanfare used in "2001", for him, it seems more cosmically fitting than for some.

When he finally emerged, he was greeted by a tidal wash of squeals and flash cubes. Mr Presley's roots lie in country music, and country crowds are particularly addicted to taking flash pictures of their favorites. But the rippling explosions of light, whenever he turns in a new direction are really unique.

Saturday afternoon's costume had been laboriously conceived to disguise and distract attention from his size, and its most striking aspect was its sheer lavishness: basically black, bell bottom pants and a vest over a puffy, double sleeve shirt, but extravagantly overlaid with "jewels" (presumably rhinestones) arranged in baroque exaggeration of American Indian designs. It looked wonderful.

Mr. Presley's on stage manner is full of bits of business to the audience and to members of the band. There was even more joking than usual Saturday afternoon; he seemed to be in a particularly affable mood. And there are always the teasing glances and winks and the half-crouched self-parodies of the "Elvis the Pelvis" swivels of yore.

When Mr. Presley cares about a song, he cuts out most of the vaudeville. But when he finds himself mired in material he has long since ceased to care about, the scarves-and-kisses rite begins.

Trailed by a dutiful "gopher" who loops scarves around the Presley neck whenever they are needed, Elvis approaches the crowd, picks a hand from the stalks of stretching arms, and pollinates it with a scarf. Each scarf has graced the neck at least momentarily: one was further blessed by having been brushed under his arms.

Kisses Women, Children

Sometimes Mr. Presley will kneel among the upraised arms, and lean over and kiss . Saturday afternoon he kissed little children and women of all ages: no men. The kisses wander dazedly away, sanctified. The aura of revival is intensified by the fact that all Mr. Presley's backup vocalists are white and black gospel singers.

When Mr. Presley first struck the American consciousness 21 years ago, he epitomized tough, young rebellion. Outrageously sexual, his songs were charged with a rhythmic energy that swept the simpering of Tin Pan Alley aside and gave birth to rock'n'roll.

But then he went into the Army and emerged into a drab sequence of schlock movies. Through most of the sixties, he functioned as a purveyor of soupniness, his dancing energy and his sexuality overlaid with a ponderous maturity.

His much-ballyhooed comeback to live concertizing in 1968 signaled a brief spurt of renewed energy. But then he settled back into a curiously unpredictable pattern of alternating quiescence and conviction.

A Few Nods to Bathos

On Saturday afternoon, there were a few nods in the direction of bathos, and the few rock oldies were mostly mumbled and thrown away, although he did do his early "Mistery Train" and "Heartbreak Hotel" did begin with some spunk.

But the bulk of the show was moderately up-tempo material or overt rock, much of it relatively unfamiliar to a crowd that would squeal at the first recognition of a favorite. It was as if Mr. Presley had decided to recast his repertory in imitation of the livelier sides of Charlie Rich and Tom Jones.

But really, Mr. Presley imitates nobody. The youthful sexuality has long since gone; it couldn't really be otherwise. But in its place there is a wonderfully relaxed, ironic affection that can be almost as nice.

His baritone is still as solid as ever, with its humorously cavernous bottom and its nasal vibrato on top. When he is putting out as he did Saturday afternoon, reaching for the top notes and shaping phrases with the same easy inviduality that has always marked his best work, he is still the king.