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CONCERT DATE: May 29, 1977. Baltimore, MD

Presley Has The Old Magic Still
by Earl Arnett
Baltimore Sun
May 30, 1977

Elvis Aron Presley, a 42-yer-old native of Tupelo, Miss, visited a packed house at the Civic Center last night and generated the same excitement that has made him an American household word for 20 years.

By the time he arrived on stage, the audience was clapping and stomping the floor in nervous excitement over the appearance of the mythical "king of rock and roll." The king is slightly paunchy now in his white spangled suit and the hair seems dyed. But the main ingredients of the image are intact - the boyish, almost feminine face; the sexual pelvic movements and the country voice that croons the rhythms of white rock welded onto black soul.

Like his management, Elvis' show was intelligent and well-paced. A brassy, 10-piece band began the evening with the the from "Rocky", followed by a white gospel quartet in yellow suits. Then came a comedian and the Sweet Inspirations, a black female trio that knows how to handle the contemporary disco-rock styles.

All these preliminaries were packed into an hour, followed by a 45-minute intermission, which allowed the tension to grow before the ultimate arrival of the legend

What brings such an audience to struggle for tickets and jam an arena to see Elvis Presley? The responses to this question were as varied as the people there. One 25-year-old man had followed Elvis since he was 4 years old. Another woman in her 20's had seen all his movies. Most of the women though he was "sexy".

There was no coherent response to the question. People weren't quite sure why they loved Elvis. an enthusiastic group of women in the upper decks agreed that he was "the perfect fantasy of every woman." They could enjoy the way he moved and sang in much the same way that men enjoy a good belly dancer.

The illusion of sex is there, but there's also no danger. A clean-cut Elvis enables women to loosen the puritan shackles in their lives without the messiness of any genuinely human confrontation

One surprise in the Civic Center audience was its diversity. You could not characterize it easily. Young people were there as well as old, men as well as women, including many married couples. The most obvious fact about the thousands who filled the center was the virtual absence of Afro-Americans.

There are great ironies here. Elvis began his recording career in 1954 in Memphis, then and now a melting pot for many country musics including the blues, gospel and folk. Sam Phillips, the entrepreneur at Sun Records who looms large in the history of rock and roll, had always predicted that if a white man could sing the earthy black blues, fortunes were to be made.

And along came Elvis, a truck driver who had graduated from high school in 1953 and worshipped the late James Dean. The young Elvis yearned for some kind of release from his life and like many poor folks, music offered him a way out. He assumed the rebellious stance of Dean and Brando, picked up the sensuality of black music and walked into the Sun Records studio.

His first record was a tune called "That's All Right." He sang it at last night's concert, a straightforward, bluesy tune that seemed innocuous in comparison with all the stir it caused.

Within a year after Elvis released this tune, he had a contract with RCA, and a new manager, Col. Tom Parker, carnival promoter and legitimate con man of grand proportions. Under his guidance, the young Elvis who loved music and his mother, became a sex symbol palatable to postwar America.

The remarkable thing is how Elvis has lasted so long. He remains an important symbol. Little girls wore Elvis T-shirts last night, and teen-agers held up signs saying, "Elvis, I Love You."

Women still screamed whenever he wiggled his hips, even when it obviously was a pose, almost a caricature from the past. The myth of ELvis has become almost as large as that surrounding the late Howard Hughes. Some even wondered, as they did with Hughes, if the man on stage were really Elvis.

It was impossible for them to reconcile the legend in their minds to the spectacle of a mere man showing the signs of middle age.

Of course, by this time Elvis is virtually impervious to all criticism. The media have to buy tickets if they want to review him or take his picture, he doesn't need them (The Sun's photographer, who didn't have a ticket, was not allowed in the civic Center.) He doesn't even have to sing. People come just to see him as they would visit a national monument.

To the thousands who cheered him last night, he is a symbol of innocence tinged with just the right combination of sex, show business and country music. They don't know why exactly, but they still love him.

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez