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CONCERT DATE: July 20 1975 (8:30 pm). Norfolk VA.

Elderly Elvis' Swivel Still Stuns
by Mary Dissen
Norfolk Ledger-Star

There was a religious service held twice in Scope Sunday, starring, honoring, and yes, almost defying, the Elder of Rock, Elvis Presley. At least it seemed that at the evening show, Elvis' second Scope performance of the day, where an almost communion-like ritual took place during a good portion of his hour-long set. It must be called something like "the laying on of the scarves," and it goes something like this.

A fan, a female fan, a worshipper, approaches the stage. At first, they seem shy. They just drift up one by one. Elvis, stuffed into a suit so white and sparkling that it makes that famous shock of shoe-polish black hair gleam like a mirror, takes the scarf from around his neck, wraps it around the faithful's head and pulls her close to him. Then an assistant (who sings and plays guitar, but could also be called lead scarf player), drapes another filmy object around Elvis' neck. And on and on. By the end of the show, no one is shy, and it takes a little police ingenuity to keep these emotionally bedraggled fans from zapping onto the stage.

The object of all this? None other than the grandfather of rock, the singer who learned the tricks of unsung black rhythm and blues artists well enough in the '50s to set off a national revolution. Twenty years later, he can still make them scream with Hound Dog and All Shook Up and Teddy Bear and all those goodies that almost change him back into the svelte-bodied, slightly menacing star of the past.

Now, he doesn't really seem to take himself seriously. The only songs in which he turns on the power remaining in his voice are gospel. Of course, it's hard to slur through How Great Thou Art and on that and Why Me Lord, he pulls out the vocal stops. But the old material is fun. And on the newer stuff, songs like Promised Land and T-R-O-U-B-L-E, he rocks pretty well. But it was on gospel, Sunday night, anyway, that he turned on the volume.

And he's smart enough to surround himself with an army of singers - the Voice, the Sweet Inspirations, the Stamps Quartet - and a healthy orchestra. The phase of his music most prominently missing was that of the late '60s- early '70s, when he sang the songs of a relatively unknown writer named Mac Davis, giving a healthy boost to the career of both artists.

But not missing was a little friction between star and support, when he chided one of the Sweet Inspirations for not paying attention. The incident had started earlier when he quipped - in a little banter about all these people, 11300 or so, breathing on him - that the Sweet Inspirations had probably been eating catfish. One singer obviously didn't think it was funny, and when he tried to joke with her later, she and another Inspiration, and another singer not in the trio, whisked off stage. To the girl who remained, Elvis gave a ring. Loyalty and a thick hide pay in the business.

But Elvis, who ended Sunday about $200,000 richer than when the day began, gave his fans what they wanted, no more, no less, and all in the form of a slick, well-produced show that was satisfying, I guess, if not particularly daring. Every attempted bump, every swivel - just a shadow of the old days - looked choreographed. The little fracas with the Sweet Inspirations at least put something spontaneous in. But it's hard not to feel awe in the presence of a national institution, sort of like Mount Rushmore suddenly started singing. And Elvis, who sells out houses in minutes, is definitely a national institution.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward