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CONCERT DATE: April 25, 1976. Long Beach, CA.

Elvis' spark gone, but still love 'em
by Denise Kusel
Long Beach Press Telegram
April 26, 1976

I'd like to say Elvis knocked 'em dead.

But he didn't.

There were a few screams from excited fans and a few still rushed the stage during the closing moments of the concert. The announcer still warned, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis Presley has left the building," moments after the singer was swept off stage surrounded by guards.

But watching Elvis at the Long Beach Arena Sunday night was like watching a parody of a dying legend.

The show was sprinkled with a few Elvis gestures - an obligatory sneer a toss of his mane of black hair...handing out sweatstained scarves to screaming fans.

But mostly it was like watching a chubby puppet wrapped in a double chin and a foreign body work through a series of Elvis songs.

But heroes die and even the best sunrise melts into sunset and then darkness.

Looking pasty-faced and with a body girth that reminded me of Raymond Burr, the King of Rock and Roll was introduced to the theme of "2001".

The audience waited in dramatic silence... waited for the spotlight to bathe the blue and white jumpsuit clad Elvis in harsh natural light.

Flash bulbs turned the 14,000-seat auditorium in a fantasy of strobe-like light. He opened with "C.C. Rider" - the same song he opened with four years ago at his last Long Beach appearance.

He strummed a Gibson sunburst guitar, hooked his left thumb in a loop of a gold chain which dangled from a belt decorated with a sequined likeness of the Seal of the President of the United States, and sang and sweated.

"You look great" one fan screamed at the 41 year old entertainer.

But it was clear he didn't. Each movement and there were few seemed and effort.

The voice that came from the depths of his barrel chest was deep and rich. His renditions of gospel songs. "How Great Thou Art" and "This Time You Gave Me a Mountain" were offered with sincere beauty.

An eerie silence filled the concert hall when he sang "And now the end is near" - the opening line to the Frank Sinatra favorite, "My Way." It was like witnessing a chilling prophecy.

Presley's legendary rockers "All Shook Up," "Pork Salad Annie," "Teddy Bear." "It's Now or Never" and "Hound Dog" were performed with a bored sigh.

"Burning Love," "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" were given an abbreviated treatment. And I Love Her So," "I'm Hurt" and a Bicentennial salute, "America the Beautiful," rounded out the show.

There were no karate chops. No swiveling hips or wriggling legs. There was a man who, microphone pressed close to his lips, explained that "And after all is said and done... I did it my way."

Almost 28,000 fans in two concerts, marking his only Southern California appearances, loved him.

So did I

*** The morning newspaper from Long Beach: The Independent published the same review on April 27, 1976 with a different title (Elvis packs 'em at L.B. Arena doing it "his way".)

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez