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CONCERT DATE: June 23, 1974 Philadelphia, PA.

Elvis Proves He's Still A Great Performer
by Matt Damsker
The Evening Bulletin
June 24, 1974

ELVIS WAS a vision last night, in the flesh yet larger than life, conjured by the momentous strains of Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra," glittering in a spangled white outfit laden with red, blue and gold American eagle motifs and a champion's belt ringed by oversized gold coins.

Apollonian, he acknowledged the creams and huzzahs of a full Spectrum - the older fans , well into their 30s like Elvis, and the younger ones, excited by this legend come alive, this hulking embodiment of rock 'n' roll's audacity. From every section of the hall, cameras flashed unceasingly - long into Presley's performance - assaulting the stage in a stroboscopic wave, bursting like fireworks, around this aging, pop cultural king.

The two pithiest observations on Presley that I've so far encountered come from a poet - Thom Gunn who said of Elvis, "He turns revolt into a style" - and a black militant, Eldridge Cleaver, who asserted the following in his autobiography, "Soul On Ice."

"Elvis, with his unfunky ... bumpgrinding, was still too much body (too soon) for the strained, collapsing psyches of the Omnipotent Administrators and Ultrafeminines... So Elvis Presley came, strumming a weird guitar ... and, like a latter-day Johnny Appleseed, sowing seeds of new rhythm and style in the white souls of the white youth of America, whose inner hunger and need was no longer satisfied with the antiseptic white shoes and the whiter songs of Pat Boone."

BOTH CLEAVER, with his alienated rhetoric, and Gunn, with his epigrammatic incisiveness, have given Elvis the sort of credit he deserves. Certainly, he came at a point in history when the bland paternalism of Dwight Eisenhower exerted anything but a charismatic hold upon American youth. But Elvis was no fomenter of revolt - revolt against what? Post-war security? as much as a legitimizer of raunch, a stylist who, after the initial shockwave and thanks to the outrageous manipulations of his manager, Col. Tom Parker, carried the greasy, rebellious ethic of white rock into an era of unprecedented popular acceptance.

Elvis may have wiggled his hips a trifle suggestively (hah) but at the same time, and once the Colonel began working up the image, he was "nice," a good son to his mom and dad, soft-spoken and humble off stage, a willing drafter and model soldier.

So yesterday the Colonel unleashed his billion dollar baby once more, and Elvis - fronting a five-man rock unit, a large horn section, three vocal back-up groups (J. D. Sumner and the Stamps, The Sweet Inspirations and The Voice) - was back on the boards, sweating a good deal, and evoking a palpable sea of nostalgia.

THE SHOW is best classified as an "appearance" rather than a concert. Elvis never stops playing to the crowd, handing out one sweat-drenched silk scarf after another to grasping females and frequently striking his classic pose - legs wide apart, torso hunched over, forelock dangling. But his facial expressions are filled with a sense of self-parody, as if to cast things in proper perspective. Obviously, the context has changed drastically in twenty years, and Elvis doesn't take himself too seriously. At 39, he's the Grand Old Man of a young man's game.

But his singing holds up remarkably well - the facile crooning, the rocked-out growl, the well-absorbed gospel influence of his Southern boyhood - and Elvis knows how to get the most from it. His act consists primarily of perfunctory renditions of his immortals - "All Shook Up," "Hound Dog," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me Tender" - but there are some big numbers as well - "Fever," "Poke Salad Annie," "Bridge Troubled Water" during which Elvis will reach for the distant notes or milk a phrase (and the crowd) for all it's worth.

He is, unquestionably, great performer - an originator by any standard and a pop-star of incredible charisma, as he closes with a scream extracting version of "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" and lumbers out of sight. A voice announces that "Elvis has left the building" and it's as if the vision has dematerialized and you can all go home now.

Courtesy of Archie Bald