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CONCERT DATE: February 14 1977 (8:30 pm). St Petersburg FL.

Presley Packs 'Em In
by Bob Ross
St. Petersburg Times
February 15, 1977

A packed house - 8355 strong - probably set a Bayfront Arena gate receipts record Monday night because of the prices. Money means nothing when The King is in town. For Elvis Presley's righteously dedicated fans, Valentine's Day 1977 was special in St. Petersburg. Only five months after his last visit to the Bayfront, The Big E proved (as if he needs to) that he is a top draw at any time at any price.

Elvis' box-office influence may have slipped a wee bit since September, when all tickets vanished the day they went on sale. But his showmanship, self-assurance and rapport with the fans are as powerful as ever. "Who waited in line the longest?" the white-suited, round-faced old rockabilly asked as he waved his acoustic guitar from the front of the stage. One fan rushed forward at that moment, and a massive disbelieving gasp filled the arena as genial Elvis handed the instrument to the lucky admirer. From then on, a guitar-less Elvis handed out only scarves, and dozens of eager hands waved eagerly to obtain a scrap of cloth on which the world's greatest living singing idol had perspired.

Although his Monday night performance was basically the same one he gave on his previous Suncoast visit, Elvis showed some definite signs of improvement over the sluggish self-parody he delivered before. He even apologized for "my throat - it's got icicles on it." But the excuse was not necessary - Ol' Elvis (42) sounded fine. Of course, he relied heavily on a lush backup orchestra and a nine-person chorus behind him to cover up any weak spots. But Elvis in middle.age is a better singer - and a bigger sex symbol - than most young upstarts.

Is he fat? A question asked too often about the world-famous and once-skinny pelvis-shaker. Answer: A little, but not enough to discredit his amazing talent and accomplishments. Elvis carries himself well these days, better than he did on his tours in 1975 and 1976, when the pauch was a bit larger and the singer a bit subdued. The fans came to see Elvis. After 45 minutes of preliminary talent and a too-long 45 minute intermission (blatantly designed to encourage souvenir buyers to cough up $5 for a poster), The Big E took the stage.

Flashbulbs popped incessantly, making the arena look like a huge stroboscopic display. Elvis smiled, waved, shook his booty and sang a wide variety of his golden repertoire. Certainly he is no longer the ducktailed shaking kid who dominated an entire generation of pop music lovers. But he is a charismatic, polished and confident show-biz phenomenon to this day. Elvis is a benevolent king, who did not disappoint those who paid to see him smile, sing and hand out scarves.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward