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CONCERT DATE: April 27, 1977. Milwaukee, WI

Fans Of Elvis Pay a Lot to See Little
by Damien Jaques
The Milwaukee Journal
April 28, 1977

Elvis Presley shattered a lot of myths and made a lot of money at the Arena Wednesday night.

A sellout crowd of 11,854 persons paid $167,272.50 to see Elvis, the largest gross purse ever for a noncharity concert at the Arena, but that was only part of the story.

Elvis also cut himself down to size, exploded all the myths about his being the greatest, the true superstar of rock'n'roll. He received some of the wildest adulation ever given an entertainer in Milwaukee, but the screaming women who clawned their way to the stage couldn't cover up the half hearted performance Elvis delivered.

This is a Superstar?

The greatest superstar doesn't get lost in the middle of a song and have the bandstart over. He doesn't carry sheets of paper on stage because he doesn't know the lyrics to a song, and the ask the audience to forgive him if he makes a mistake.

He doesn't mumble and swallow lyrics, sing so softly at times that he can't be heard and play almost exclusively to the few rows in front of the stage. And the greatest superstar doesn't walk off stage after 70 minutes of all of this, falling to return for even one encore.

Elvis did all of those things Wednesday night.

It was puzzling performance. One really wanted Elvis to do better. Flashbulbs turned the darkened Arena to daylight as thousands of Instamatic cameras were aimed at the stage.

The people had paid a lot of money - $12.50 and $15 - for tickets, and they wanted to see Elvis at his Las Vegas best. But from the very start it seemed Presley was more interested in the several hundred women who were trying to fight their way to the stage than the thousands who sat peacefully in their seats.

Performances by a comedian, a gospel quartet and a trio of black female singers preceded Elvis on stage.

With much fanfare, Elvis walked on stage and immediately strode to the edge of the platform. He took a ukulele from a woman who handed it to him, and shook a few hands.

Uniformed security officers guarding the stage were in tough hand to hand combat with the women who wanted to storm the stage. Presley sang "C.C. Rider," and was in the middle of the second number when a little man dressed in a bright blue suit handed him a cup of water and started putting scarfs around his neck.

Elvis would wear a scarf about five seconds, then whip it off and throw it into the front rows. The women went wild, and Elvis laughed and mumbled something.

Several women jumped on stage, and one was thrown backward off the platform by a guard. Front row combat grew worse, and Elvis seeemed preoccupied with the havoc he was causing by throwing the scarfs, like broken bread to ducks in a pond, into the audience.

Finally, police officers moved in front of the stage and the pandemonium subsided. Elvis moved through a medley, and mixed rockers like "Jailhouse Rock" with new pop numbers. He wailed on a few, roared on a few others and purred through a couple of ballads.

It was while introducing one of those pop numbers, Paul Anka's "My Way," that Elvis delivered his heaviest insult to the audience. He announced that he didn't know the lyrics and would have to read them.

He also asked the audience to forgive him if he made a mistake. Strangely, he didn't seem to really need the written lyrics he held in his hand. He read the first few lines and then sang the song from memory.

Soon he was back to handing out more scarfs, and after 70 minutes he rushed off stage. An announcer told the audience that Elvis had left the Arena.

If the audience felt hustled and conned, they had a right to those feelings. The announcer constantly pushed.

"Elvis super souvenirs" that were being sold by vendors before the show.

Among the items the announcer argued everyone to buy were in Elvis necklace for $5, a portrait "just like an oil painting" for $5 and a "limited edition" gold belt buckle for $10.

The audience was probably the most mixed group of people who would ever assemble for one event. Teenagers, grandmothers, packs of women out for a night on the town and entire families attended.

Hair teased into beehives and ironed into long straight strands could be seen. Men with Elvis haircuts and men with long shaggy locks sat side by side.

They all deserved better

Courtesy of Mark van Hout