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CONCERT DATE: September 3 1976 (8:30 pm). St Petersburg FL.

The King: Waves of Humanity Go WOW At The Flick Of His Hand
by Jim Moorhead
The Evening Independent
September 4, 1976

The Bayfront Center Arena is among the blessed now.

Festooned with 8,355 motley fans last night, it turned itself over to superstar Elvis Presley and joined the honor roll of hundreds, maybe thousands, of other halls and stadiums that have played host to the king of rock and roll these past 20 years.

And someday, when walls truly will talk, they will tell of that screaming sellout mob that pilgrimaged in to hear their hero and went away sad but happy.

They will tell of what a versatile horde it was - mostly women, true, but all kinds of women, from grandmothers to gradeschoolers, bulguing in their doubleknit pantsuits, thrusting forth in their leopardskins and their white fringe and their halters, screaming over an idol for the first time in their lives, some of them.

And the walls will note what was a general air of fervent pandemonium, leavened with a notable lack to the edge of the stage for a look, a nod, a wiggle, a scarf or even a bead of sweat from the living legend trailing about at the end of the lead microphone.

The walls may make mention of the splendid entertainment that came beforehand, from the likes of Hot Hilton Horns, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, comedian Jack Culhane, and the Supreme - like group known as the Sweet Inspirations - for they were all fine, and all giving 110 per cent.

But it's Elvis the walls will rattle on about.

Who else draws waves of anticipatory shrieks when a public address announcer says blandly at the end of intermission, "Could we have the house lights down, please? Who else gets welcomed onstage by a retinue of singers and musicians belting out the theme from "Space Odyssey? Who else can chub on almost nonchalantly and receive a chorused squeal that makes you think the entire house is going to faint dead away?

The theme from "2001" is appropriate, come to think of it, for the reaction Elvis evokes from an audience is almost out of this world. You sit there and wonder what must go through the mind of a 41-year-old kid from Tupelo, Miss, when, for the umpteenth time, he witnesses literally waves of humanity go WOW at merely the flick of his hand.

It still amazes even Elvis. As the crowd surged forward once, he recoiled with, "What're ya'll doin'? I mean, you think I'm the Pope, I'm gonna bless you?"

In this day and age, the Pope maybe has never had it so good.

In their first rush, the pushing, shoving fans overwhelmed security guards and kept them at bay for half a dozen songs, completely blocking the stage from the view of hundreds of spectators still in their $12.50 seats. Even a person in a wheelchair went to the stage apron. He was eclipsed by a one-leeged man on crutches.

Arms waved continually in front of Elvis, in the manner of starving beggars after bread. A guard had to carry one woman in a black gown bodily from the scene. Graying grannies dashed back and forth, changing flashbulbs. The latter went off in sporadic blasts like a night artillery barrage. Some woman in a white pantsuit climbed atop her poor escort's shoulders and waved a hankie at Elvis for what seemed like five minutes.

All the while, Elvis sang. His portly frame even made a few futile attempts at gyrations, summoning forth - vainly - the Presley of old. But the voice was there. Not until you hear it in person do you realize how strong and rangy that distinctive voice is. It plowed through a roster of songs and didn't flag once:

"C.C. Rider," "I Got A Woman," "Amen," "Treat Me Like A Fool,"If You Love Me, Let Me Know," "This Time You Made Me A Mountain," "And I Love You So," "All Shook Up," "Teddy Bear," "Chain Gang," "What'd I Say?" "Johnny B. Goode," "Love Letters," "Hurt," "Hound Dog," "Funny How Times Slips Away," "Train."

Then, suddenly, barely an hour after he had begun, he was gone.

The house lights came up and the announcer's voice came on: "Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and good night."

And the walls perhaps took a little note of one slightly dazed reviewer. He was a non-fan who had come prepared to be made into a believer, but he left shaking his head over how little one entertainer really had done for more than 8,000 worshipers - and over how those thousands nevertheless seemed grateful for the little they got.

Courtesy of Archie Bald