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CONCERT DATE: June 25 1973 (8:30 pm). Pittsburgh PA.

Elvis - Arena Fans Show They Still Love Him Tender
by Pete Bishop
The Pittsburgh Press
June 26, 1973

"I want to count Elvis' hound dogs 20 years from now. Only time will tell if Elvis is still collecting Cadillacs in 1976."
- Spike Jones, 1956.

Spike, old buddy. I wish you could have returned to this mortal coil for just a couple hours last night and dropped in at the Civic Arena.

Although we're three years short of your taget date, almost 14,000 of that good ole boy's "hounds" came to see his first Pittsburgh concert and about that many more are expected to show up again tonight, and with a smile, a salute or a wiggle he can still make them bay - not at the moon, but a star, a true superstar.

A Good Investment

And a far as collecting Cadillacs, General Motors probably considers HIM a blue chip investment.

Oh, he's changed since the torso-twisting mid 50s, you bet. His voice has settled into a smooth baritone, for better suited to romantic ballads than sassy Southern rockabilly.

He doesn't play the guitar much, if at all, in his act any more: it just hangs around his neck, a shinny metallic albatros quickly put aside after the first few numbers and ignored for the rest of the evening.

And the world-famous serpentine bumps, grinds, shakes and shimmies, once so fluid and natural, come more from the knees and arms these days, not from the breadbasket.

Perhaps he doesn't want to compete with the loosey-goosey young rock stars, or perhaps at 38 (yes, good people, 38) he's realized it's a bit easier for him to slip a disc than it was when Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan battled for his rating raising talents on Sunday nights.

His audience has changed, too, or maybe it's just the same audience grown a bit older along with him. Last night's crowd was mostly in the 25 to 40 bracket, the knit slacks, white shoes, pant suit, long dress set.

Parents Came, Too

There were very few jeans and tee-shirts. Most of the teens and sub-teens were accompanied by (or were accompaying) their parents - and grandparents. The older gals always did like him.

But when the aqua-vested backup orchestra's "2001" theme (okay, classicists, "Also Sprach Zarathustra") crescendos peaked and the Man Himself bounded onto the stage. Land o'Goshen, Lord have mercy, make no mistake - it was Elvis.

And there was no mistake at all. As the shrieks cascaded off the Arena roof. Elvis stood there smiling, handsome as any prom queen's best beau in a white, spangled suit, looking like a palomino rider from the Tournament of Roses parade.

The drummer in his green-suited combo started beating, and Elvis tapped his right food , twitched his shoulders, tilted the mike toward him and began:

"Oh, see, C.C. Rider. I said see what you have done." Thank goodness for electric amplification - every ounce of power was needed as the women went wild.

"I got a woman, 'way cross town, she's good to me," he sang - but his voice sounded tired, a bit washed-out, not savage as those two rockin' songs demand.

Still Hard At Work

But don't forget - this man hasn't had a day off since last Wednesday and won't have another till Independence Day. He's got a right to be a bit pooped if he wants.

No matter, though, any little movement - strolling around, the stage crooning "Love Me Tender," pulling his scarf out of his shirt, drooping toward the stage as if doing the limbo, utilizing karate moves to cut offthe band - elicited peals of squeals.

And when, Arnold Palmer - like, he grabbed his massive belt buckle and gave a hitch, the response was enough to bust a body's eardrums.

His program was very well balanced. Rock lovers were treated to "Steamroller," "Blue Suedes Shoes," "Long Tall Sally," "Jasilhouse Rock," "Hound Dog" and "Johnny B. Goode."

But the slower numbers, he should realize, now are his forte. "What Now My Love?" embellished with a soaring soprano descant and a mightly basso in the male quartet, was a delight. "I'm Leaving" and "I'll Remember You," with more Elvis and fewer frills, were almost equally lovely.

His Gospel Roots

And the greatest applause came when Elvis reached back into his gospel roots and poured out the most powerful "How Great Thou Art" you've heard. Believer or not, you had to be moved because it's obvious he was.

Three times a scarf from the sweaty Presley neck went wafting into the audience - and the third time, after he'd done a split during "Suspicious Minds," almost started a real hey rube, settled only by an entourage aide with scarves for all three combatants.

The rest of the show was first-class, too. Comedian Jackie Kahane, a frequent performer at night spots here, was in fine form, not too blue, lampooining astrolgy and convincing us we're all a little bit weird ("You ever walk toward a ringing phone and say, "All right, I'm coming? Who are you talking to the phone?

And the Sweet Inspirations, three slinky black girls, really know how to put down the three part harmony. They sound the way you always wished the Supremes would have.

But it was Elvis, after a beautiful "Help Me Make It Through The Night," who asked for the house lights "so I can take a look at you," saw thousands of women waving like windmills with poison ivy, donned a sparkling cape and knelt waiting to be dubbed.

And dubbed he was with a thunderous ovation. He's not a knight - he's the king and probably always will be.

Spike, my friend, you really should have lived so long.

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez