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CONCERT DATE: April 26 1975. Tampa FL.

Hefty And Hot, Elvis Still Carries Weight with Fans
by Victor Livingston
St. Petersburg Times
April 28, 1975

The King of Rock 'n' Roll has grown puffy-faced, pale and paunchy in this, his 40th year. He holds his pelvic gyrations and karate-chop contortions in check, as if under doctor's orders. His legs twitch perceptively to the pounding rhythm in protest against the singer's newly required restraint. He reaches over the edge of the stage to kiss a front-row female and apologizes "That's as far as I can bend, honey." And most telling, his conservatively cut blue suit studded with red sequins remains securely buttoned throughout the full, hot hour on stage, not quite hiding that much gossiped-about girth.

But the energy that a younger, slimmer Elvis Presley would have out into his on-stage gymnastics is not lost; instead, that force manifests itself in the man's music, and in his inexhaustible personal magnetism. The Elvis Presley that brought down the house Saturday at Tampa's Curtis Hixon hall retains that famous smile, charm and that voice - what a voice! It was as if Elvis knows he had to compensate for his physical lackings by putting his all into his sound. And that he did.

The 8000 mostly white, middle-aged fans didn't mind a bit that their idol just stood there clutching the microphone and crooning most of the time, or that his belly bulged out at times making him look something like a chubby penguin. They too have grown older, and they understand. The raw physical power and electricity of the vintage Elvis is a thing of Elvis' past - and theirs - and both accept that fact of life. Where once Elvis' fans felt pure awe in his presence, now there is empathy, and it actually enhances his appeal.

As Elvis belts out C.C. Rider and I Got a Woman, two early rock 'n' roll classics, he executes a slow bump and grind, joking, "Let' see if it all works," then stops, clutching his leg in mock pain. He smiles, and the communication with the audience is total. Without spelling it out, Elvis is saying "Look, I'm not everything I used to be, but I still have a lot to give." The audience acknowledges each slight body movement with the expected screams and tumultuous applause.

He still sings his early classics like Love Me Tender, Teddy Bear and Don't Be Cruel but he does so in self-parody, laughing at his own legend by altering the lyric and the tempo. He still works up a sweat and hands out perspiration-stained scarves to adoring stage-side fans, and provokes jealous screams by planting kisses on their cheeks. The animal Elvis has mellowed with age, but that beast in him remains.

The most impressive thing about this rotund Elvis is his musicianship, no longer eclipsed by his choreography. When he slides into his recent ballad My Boy you know it comes from deep down. His voice is full, robust and resounding, in perfect pitch. And so it is with the other ballads on the program I Remember You, It's Midnight and the stirring American Trilogy. For middle-of-the-roaders, Elvis turns in respectable but unimpressive pop versions of Funny How Time Slips Away, If You Love Me Let Me Know and Let Me Be There, the latter two tunes recent Olivia Newton-John hits.

But Elvis' forte is still the rockin' stuff, and he shows he hasn't lost what it takes. His Burning Love puts shame even to his own record version. When he launches into a slow, torchy Heartbreak Hotel, the inflections are vintage 1956. Somehow it's not the same without those pelvic thrusts and deep knee-bends, but the audience forgives. Once or twice Elvis tentatively executes a half-split, as if testing his bloated body. But mostly he just clutches the microphone and wails in the best way he knows how. He wears his famous guitar for his first rocking numbers, then discards it. He never actually plays it.

The high point of the performance comes when Elvis goes back to his roots and announces "I'd like to do the first record I ever recorded." He launches into a feverish That's All Right Mama, bopping and slurring the lyric in classic rockabilly fashion, far better than the original on record. He lead guitar man reinforces the sound with lead licks from another early Elvis opus My Baby Left Me and fills in the bridge with the same That's All Right lead first laid down in 1955 by Elvis' original guitarist, Scotty Moore.

At the last moment Elvis lapses into mediocrity with a syrupy, schmaltzy and too-fast version of Can't Help Falling in Love with You as his final number. One last time he bends over to kiss some cheeks and shake some hands. He smiles and strides off the stage in triumph, a lackluster finish notwithstanding. There is no encore. But the applause thundered on. And this crowd of loyal fans was not just applauding the legend, or the vestigial traces of a one-time teenage idol. Even without the gyrations, contortions and Mr. America build, this hefty but hot Elvis Presley truly earned it.

Elvis fans had to wait a full hour before their man came on stage. The audience endured a schlocky Las Vegas comic who yukked about getting seven days out of a 5-day deodorant pad. Two warm-up acts, Voice and the Sweet Inspirations, both of them Elvis back-up groups, tried their best to entertain a crowd who wanted only Elvis. And then, of all things, an intermission, during which a thoroughly obnoxious master of ceremonies hawked Elvis souvenirs from the stage. Some concertgoers complained that they had paid $10 for mail-order tickets, but had been given $5.50 or $7.50 seats - with no adjustment. Some fans took their case up with Curtis Hixon management, who denied responsibility and refused to make any refunds.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward