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CONCERT DATE: May 3 1977 (8:30 pm). Saginaw MI.

Elvis Returns to Saginaw...And Second Appearance Is an Improvement
by Anthony A. Rocha
Saginaw News
May 4, 1977

It is difficult to attack a legendary figure especially when there is much effort to perpetuate that mystique. Elvis Presley is a successful practioner of maintaining his total appeal despite the passing years and excess weight.

That he is a king of sorts was shown last night and April 25 when he appeared before capacity crowds at Wendler Arena. The overwhelming reception and adulation he received from his avid fans made his concerts memorable events. A well-assembled entertainment package has been the key to Presley's continued illusion of grandeur in the last quarter century.

During his first performance Presley put out an effort of about 50 per cent. The crowd didn't seem to mind that he had to take long pauses between songs to compose himself. Presley's second appearance was a marked improvement. Although his energy level certainly failed to go beyond 70 per cent, this time around he seemed to be healthier and a bit livelier.

The gathering of young and not so young in sharing the Presley experience appeared to prefer the form rather than the substance. To support the aging swivel-hipped singer, a Las Vegas-type revue of a gospel group, a comedian and a trio of disco collies warmed up the crowd for the dramatic appearance of Presley. J.D. Sumner's thunderous bass and Sean Nielsen's near operatic tenor provided the singing bounds for Presley.

The waiting and anticipation were heightened with a dramatic introduction of the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" from Johan Strauss. Presley moved on to the stage amid bursting camera flashbulbs and strains of excited glee.

His presence on stage for slightly more than an hour satisfied the majority of the audience with his minimal renditions of his numerous million-seller selections. After I Got a Woman and Treat Me Like a Fool Presley took a retiring stance. He belted out full vocal power during some tunes but for the most part attempted to conserve his energy to make it through the evening.

In My Way Presley showed some of how he could make an effective transition from "jumping rocker" to an appealing pop-singer. The rendition was moving, yet contained a glimmer of his vocal magnetism. After a brief medley of songs which made him popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Presley passed the spotlight to his supporting group of Sumner's quartet and the Sweet Inspirations. Once he recovered from the pause, Presley tried to show his famous frantic moves in his rendition of Polk Sally Anna.

Technical problems with the microphone gave him a breather. With a show that spared no expense, it would have been reasonable to have had a costly speaker system. But Presley pressed on and finished his energy expenditure. The time he used to introduce his back-up band individually proved also a necessary breather for the crooner.

Nielsen took the stage to sing Danny Boy and Walk with Me while the king took his place on a nearby stool. As a rousing finish Presley softly sang I Can't Help Falling in Love with You and bid his fond goodbyes to the adoring crowd. "I really enjoyed hearing Elvis," said a woman in the audience. "But I think is it time for him to change a bit and not try to act like a 20-year old. I'm here with my daughter who is 25 and I certainly don't try to act like she does. I know his fans would still be faithful to him."

Mrs. Mary Lesnefsky said "I came all the way from Houston, Texas so I could be here. In fact, my husband planned his business trip so I could attend. I was really impressed with his singing." Someone else in the audience remarked "I don't care how he looked or that he didn't sing much. I just had to be here in the same building with him. Besides, the price we paid to see him here in Saginaw is less than we would have to pay to go see him in Las Vegas."

For most of the people who saw Presley during his appearances, the memory and experience of the show made the effort to attend worth it. The larger question for Presley and his management is whether sacrificing his self-imposed solitary existence can continue to push for profits. Presley's contact with the real world by a visit to the small markets might prove to him that maintaining his legend is not worth the price of loneliness he has paid over the years.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward