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CONCERT DATE: September 2 1976 (8:30 pm). Tampa FL.

Elvis: Still a Heavy on the Superstar Scale
by Frank Ross
St. Petersburg Times

Elvis laughs a lot on stage these days. He obviously knows that his voice is but a weak parody of the super larynx that made him a star. The highlight of his performance is the continuous handing out of scarfs to grabby fans. He even has a special band member to feed him his supply of scarfs. he chats with the musicians between verses. Elvis Presley is fat, sassy and making bigger concert bucks than ever.

The rock of his natural-genius voice has a little more gravel in it now. And the roll of the hillbilly hips is due as much to adiposity as to raunchy rhythms. But it's still rock 'n' roll, Elvis Presley style the original, rockabilly, sensous-but-masculine sound that created a pop music genre. Elvis is still "The King," yet to be deposed after 20 years at the top.

In fact, the erstwhile truck-driver from Mississippi remains the hottest solo act in the history of pop. No one - not Bob Dylan or Lawrence Welk or any other generation's leading light - sells out every large tour stop the first day of ticket sales. In the supposedly volatile world of mass popularity, Elvis' grip on the nation's box office for two decades compares favorably with Queen Victoria's long run in the theatre of British monarchy.

Thursday night at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Hall Presley, 41, sang and swiveled for a packed house - an audience full of the same squeals and screams that made him a superstar back when he was only 21 and his fans had not yet made the transition from bobby sox to stockings. The crowd was diverse in age but not on dress. Men wore shiny print shirts or leisure suits. Women wore pant suits or Elvis T-shirts and lots of perfume.

The same phenomenon - hundreds of well-dressed matrons clawing crazily in the air toward their beloved husky hillbilly - will be repeated tonight at the Bayfront. If you don't have a ticket already. forget it, unless you care to seek a scalper (one who illegally raises ticket prices for profit) or risk finding a counterfeiter (one who prints his own tickets for non-existent seats). Both practices have been detected in other cities on Elvis' current tour - a tour that proves with a sort of monotonous thrill that The Big E still packs 'em in and turns 'em on in a big way. No ticket problems were reported Thursday in Tampa, but tickets were checked carefully.

And not all the audience shares Elvis' middle-age status. Many younger people also attended. Tots with parents and grandparents made the age scale complete. One thing has changed in 20 years. When Elvis came to Florida on tour in 1956, he was accompanied by a small, mostly acoustic band. But his 1976 tour includes an 11-piece Dixie-disco outfit, a gospel quintet, a female vocal trio and a comedian - all but the latter at rock concert volume. In fact, this 45-minute variety set and a 15-minute intermission preceded Elvis' appearance on stage.

Elvis' part of the show - an hour long - was in the nightclub groove. But there's only one "King" and even 20 years and a Las Vegas outlook can't change that. Elvis is better than nostalgia - he is no goldie oldie - he's an entertainer now, not an aged rockabilly. Still sings up a storm, too.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward