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CONCERT DATE: April 23 1977 (8:30 pm). Toledo OH.

Elvis Presley Appears in Three Roles: As Symbol, Balladeer, And in Parody of His Past Performances
by Greg Oatis
Toledo Blade
April 25, 1977

There were at least three Elvis Presleys in Toledo Saturday Night. The first, most evident in the eyes of the bubbly, pant-suited women before the show, was the young, dusky sex symbol of the 50s, whose hip contortions, sideburns, and gritty synthesis of country and blues burgeoned into rock'n'roll and electrified a musical era. This one wasn't seen much once the show began.

The second was the mature balladeer. His pulsing baritone filled out nicely some slower tunes like Sinatra's My Way or And I Love You So. He made several appearances, showing that the Presley voice, not quite as flexible as it once was nonetheless remains creditable. The third Elvis in the University of Toledo Centennial Hall Saturday was a pudgy middle-aged man whose mumbled lyrics and feeble attempts at pelvis thrusts were a parody of the first. But if you missed all three, folks, you didn't miss much.

The "super Elvis souvenirs" - badges, photo books, posters, mirrored pictures, T-shirts etc. - and the slick, Las Vegas revue warmup groups made the show seem more like a circus than a concert. Elvis must have handed out a hundred scarves. An assistant draped one after another over Elvis' neck and the star would throw them to the adoring, feminine multitudes. It would have been allright though (after all, the man is the king of rock'n'roll) if he hadn't mumbled through the songs at the same time.

There were flashes, though, instants where you could catch a flavor of the excitement that he represents. In Little Sister ("don't do what your big sister done"), he seemed to pick up the feeling of the music. During "Sister" his hip swings and winches which most of the night were awkward cartoons used to tease the sell-out crowd, somehow seemed more natural, as if he were enjoying the music. His voice, often tentative or self-conscious - or even occasionally bored - came through his generally tight, unwieldy stage presence.

There were other tunes, too, many of them ballads, where the sensuality that set all those women in pastels to bubbling come through. To be sure, dyed-in-the-spangles Presley fans were satisfied. There was no shortage of well-manicured hands to clutch for the white or blue scarves. And there were still the screams at the lead-in to Don't Be Cruel (which was one number I got really mad at because he ruined it by festooning the audience with scarves and forgetting to sing).

One fan, Sandy Hawley of Dayton, said she's been to more than 25 of the king's concerts. "I grew up with Elvis and I never dropped him. Seeing him brings back old memories." I asked her if she found him sexy, and she gave a sultry laugh. "Let's just say I like him." She's traveled to Pittsburgh, Charlotte N.C., Champaigne, Ill., and many other cities, and paid up to $55 just to hear Elvis.

And Ms. Hawley is not alone in her enthusiasm. At least two bouquets (one of them roses) were tossed onstage during the 1-hour, 10-minute performance , and the one mandatory pair of panties appeared as well. I had the feeling they were tributes to the memory, to the event, more than to the music.

Crowd reactions to the music were mixed. Several couples sitting near me left early, evidently disappointed that their memories had held up better than Elvis himself. Charlie Hart, a Toledoan, said that Presley seemed "too much into theatrics. When he concentrated on singing, though, he wasn't too bad." On the other had, Maggie Smith though he was "better than he ever was." She agreed that his rocking was a trifle anemic, but pointed out that "the guy is in his 40s. What do you expect?" He's 42, to be exact.

But even 42 isn't too old to remember lyrics (he fluffed some on It's Now Or Never, a pleasant Latin scorcher). True, one can't fault the scarcity of his leg shimmies, only their lack of sincerity. But then Elvis Aron Presley isn't what 9322 people went to see Saturday night. We went to see flat-tops again, and angora dice, and ourselves without backaches doing the twist or the mashed potato on American Bandstand. "Pelvis" makes the women feel young and sexy and the men feel young and handsome.

It's as if the uncomfortable 60s had never happened. For, after its initial popularity, the raunchy, good-time sexuality of pure rock'n'roll was out of vogue for a long time. Back seats gave way to moonlit chapels in the woods and hand-holding. Love matches, made in heaven, ended only in bloody, syrupy auto accidents (as in J. Frank Wilson's Last Kiss) or other forms of untimely death.

But gradually, after the decline of the Beatles and before the reincarnation of Jefferson Airplane - in fact, after the charming and naive hip movement's search for spirituality was lost in drug-induced stupor and postwar bewilderment - the new rockers - the "punks" reinstated kicks in music. Bob Seger, the Rolling Stones, and others again dealt with sensuality set to bass-heavy music as had Elvis and Little Richard, Freddie (Boom-Boom) Cannon, and Chuck Berry in the 50s. With glitter, disco and the inevitable 50s revival filling the headphones of a new generation of listeners (the third in Elvis' career), the troubadors of peace and love like Melanie and Donovan have gone begging.

People can again pay a lot of money to see sex symbols, and women can shriek and throw their underware onstage, and performers can wiggle their hips, and no one has to feel guilty that multitudes are starving or that rivers are dirty or that there's a war on. Folks can go about doing what they do to have a good time - even wear Elvis buttons - without being required to feel foolisg or guilty.

So, in 20 years of popular music, we're where we started from. A little older, so that the moves come slower, but the atmosphere is the same.Oh yes, Elvis has been rumoured to be obese. He's not. A little pudgy, maybe. Fluffy around the middle, but not fat, strictly speaking. And while he had a guitar hung around his neck for a couple of songs, he's quit pretending he can play it. It just sat there for a couple of songs, like much of the audience. The only standing ovation he got was when he quit singing.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward