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CONCERT DATE: April 22, 1976. Omaha, NE.

King Elvis Still Classy As A Caddy
by Doug Smith
Omaha World-Herald
April 23, 1976

Most stars are two cylinder jobs performing with their throttles wide open. Elvis Presley is a super-charged, fuel-injected V-12 who idles beautifully along, occasionally racing the engine to give just a hint of his great power. Thursday night in Omaha, the 41 year old singer was as classy, though maybe not as sleek, as all of those Cadillacs he's been handing out since he was last here in the summer of 1974. The King is still the King, despite of reports that he has been depressed, debilitated and overweight. Indeed, Presley is maybe 30 or 40 pounds over his playing weight. The long time sex-symbol has the start of double chin.

But the pounds only make Elvis more imposing, if slightly less mobile. The charisma may be off a notch but the gestures are grand and Olympian. Omaha is the second stop on Presley's current seven-city tour. As in hoping to catch sight of the singer. A Hilton employee said phone calls poured in and visitors asked to see the register. Presley had stayed at the Hilton in 1974 and had planned to stop again Thursday night until a change of plants. He cancelled his reservation for 60 rooms three weeks ago. Actually, Presley was still in the air between Kansas City, MO., and Omaha when the sold-out crowd of 10,546 had settled into the seats of the City Auditorium more than an hour later.

Presley dresses in his plane so he can go from limousine to stage in just a few minutes. He sang for about 80 minutes and then was scheduled to go to Eppley Airfield for a flight in his private jetliner to Denver, the next tour stop. The Presleys formula hasn't changed much since his three 1974 performances here. Some pleasing but decidedly minor entertainers opened the show. These included J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, comic Jackie Kahane and the Sweet Inspirations.

An intermission, the 25 sellers (all Elvis employees) who pitched to fans streaming into the arena, pitched to them again inside, selling Elvis buttons for one dollar, binoculars for five dollars, and posters and other mementos.

Then the loudspeakers warned everybody to return to their seats and the Presley troupe began blaring "2001", a grand tune reserved only for prophets, superstars and antacid tablets. Presley's arrival triggered an unearthly mass scream distinctive from the squeals other big stars occasion. It's a high, building, inhuman rush of noise that might be compared to the music of the spheres on doomsday. The thousands of flashbulbs turned the midnight of the arena into high noon and then back. The process is rapidly repeated, giving the 20,000 irises of the fans a workout. Though Presley started with a routine version of "C.C. Rider" the crowd was already his.

During the next 80 minutes Presley mixed patriotism, religion, sex and self parody in a way that's as seductive as ever. Finished with his guitar he had over his shoulder, he flung it carelessly behind him where it, of course, was caught by a sideman. He wore a white jump suit cut nearly to the navel in front and with rhinestonestudded sleeves. On one finger was a gigantic, bright diamond ring. A diamond cross hung from his neck. His black curly hair had an intentionally tousled look, the only thing about him that recalls the 1950s, from sprung.

His body still speaks a universal language, said with a twitch of shoulders and rocking of the hips. His handsome face flickered with self-mocking arrogance at times, his lip pulled up into a showy sneer. Presley has one of the great voices around and he turned on the power, he was overwhelming. It's a deep rich enveloping tone that is commandingly masculine. Though Presley works hard for his fans, he gives them little of himself. His comments between songs were brief and sometimes puzzling. He got a laugh when he said, "I woke up the other morning and I was married to some chick," a reference to news reports about a woman who claimed Presley had proposed.

The big guy rolled through his best loved hits with an easy, playful style. These included, "I'm all shook up," "Don't Be Cruel," "Heartbreak Hotel," and "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog." But Elvis seemed to really get passionate about some others, belting out, "Help Me," a sing-and-talk version of America The Beautiful," "How Great Thou Art" and "It's Now Or Never." He had lots of fun with that ancient rock parody "Little Darling." The singer again handed out dozens of scarves to fans gathered in a frenetic band in front of the stage. A sideman hangs them around Elvis' neck and then he tosses them out into the crowd, only occasionally teasing the outstretched arms. He wiped one scarf over his perspiring, heaving chest and held it out. "That's the one I want," shouted a fan, as Presley strutted like Conrad Birdie, a fictional rock star who exaggerated the Presley image.

Courtesy of Mark van Hout