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CONCERT DATE: July 4, 1976. (2:30 pm) Tulsa, OK.

By Bill Donaldson
Tulsa Tribune
July 5, 1976

After Elvis Presley had been whisked from ORU's Mabee Center late Sunday afternoon, a man stopped by on his way out and challenged me. "Now, print in your newspaper that everybody hated him!" I hate to disillusion the gentleman, but it isn't my newspaper. I just work here. Furthermore, nobody could print, in good conscience, that anybody in Mabee Center Sunday afternoon hated Elvis Presley. It was a love feast expressed in massteria (to use Meredith Wilson's word).

The script is familiar. Every available seat in the auditorium was filled. And female fans of all ages stampeded to the edge of the stage begging for the sweat from the brow of the singer - literally. (Presley, for the uninitiated, wears a white or blue handkerchief around his neck during a performance. These are changed periodically and the used ones are thrown into the outstretched, pleading hands of his worshippers.) Of course the customers in the seats on the floor near the stage see only about half the performance. But what the heck. Watching the audience at a Presley concert is almost as entertaining as watching the star.

And the star is worth watching. Sunday afternoon he gave his fans about the best concert any pop singer can. He sang songs ranging back to the beginning of his career, several new ones, and he didn't shortchange the faithful. Remarking that he had only one show to do Sunday, and therefore could extend his performance, the star held the stage for more than an hour. Presley can do full justice to a ballad. He can still make his early rock and roll hits exciting. His gospel songs like How Great Thou Art ring. And he brings down the house with Dixie - Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Elvis has been a major star for a full twenty years. No one can stay up there for that long on hype alone. Undeniably he has a talent and a presence that audiences of all ages find attractive. Unabashedly over forty, and more than a shade on the plump side, he verwhelmed youngsters Sunday who had not even been born when he first hit the top. He and his mentor, Col. Parker, must both be enormously wealthy. Why, then, the hucksterism that he permits at his personal appearances? Does he really need that? When I arrived at Mabee Center Sunday afternoon, a voice on the speaker system was already hawking Presley "momentoes" (his pronounciation).

The concert began as close to the announced time as any of these things does. And there was almost an hour with the Stamps Quartet, comedian Jackie Kahane and the Sweet Inspirations. They're good performers, all of them, but they weren't what the audience came to see. Then there was a 35 minute intermission while the hawking resumed in earnest. You could buy an Elvis button for $1. There were photo albums and posters ranging up to $3. And you could have one of those handkerchiefs - something very woman needed to wave to Elvis when he appeared on stage - for $5.

After the performance, there were "I Love Elvis" pennants for $2, and Elvis sweatshirts whose price I was afraid to ask. And there were repeated announcements that Presley's new album "Live from Elvis Presley Boulevard" has just been released. The atmosphere was more that of a cheap carnival than the musical event that it was. It is perhaps the best measure of Elvis' impact on an audience that he could surmount this gaudy mess and make the afternoon memorable on its musical terms.

Near the end of his performance Presley remarked, apparently sincerely, that he had found Tulsans "good audiences." "Any time you want us back, just let us know," he said. That's an offer I'll bet he won't have to repeat. As I left the hall, I heard two teenaged girls talking. One of them remarked, " The next time, I'll sleep outside two nights if I have to in order to get tickets." Personally, I wouldn't go that far. But, if Presley repeats with the same voltage he displayed this time around, his devoted fans will be fully repaid for their efforts to get those tickets. It was a helluva show.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward