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CONCERT DATE: September 9 1970 (8:30 pm). Phoenix AZ.

The Presley Era And Where It Has Gone
by Jerry Eaton
The Arizona Republic
October 18, 1970


Fourteen years ago the author covered Elvis's first Phoenix show for The Arizona Republic.

In 1956 a 21-year-old singer grabbing for his slice of stardom kayoed 5,000 screaming teen-agers, mostly girls. They surged against a chain link fence in an attempt to reach him. They climbed over and under fences to enter the Arizona State Fairground. They bent up the bottom of an iron sliding gate to gain admission.

Elvis Presley was a symbol of a wild, new breed, anti-Establishment, unpredictable. His performance had the social impact of an atom bomb. It delighted youths, angered parents and infuriated teachers and ministers.

Today Presley, although sometimes exciting, is perhaps past it.

The old Presley magic did burn bright enough a few weeks ago to permit him to almost transform a show bomb into a success. For an hour, the crowd at the Coliseum suffered through three preliminary acts, clapping occasionally to indicate their displeasure.

After intermission, Presley shuffled unannounced into the blazing spotlights wearing a white fringed shirt which laced up the front; white, slightly flared trousers, white shoes and green scarf. He put the audience into his pocket immediately just as he did in 1956. But they kept slipping away from him.

Their enthusiasm waned. They forced him to reach into the past to sing the standards - Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender.

Many remembered Elvis the boy. That night they saw Elvis the man whose facial lines betray his 35 years. They remembered a shadow and they heard, for the most part, past-tense songs because it was a past-tense show.

Elvis in his appearance in Phoenix in 1956 wore a dark blue suit and red knit shirt. He stepped high in a quick jig when drums, bass fiddle and guitar filled in. He doesn't undulate as much today but when he does, he turns on. His twisting, turning continues to please as much as the songs he bellows. The delighted shrieks follow. But they're fleeting. In 1956, the yells were sustained.

Presley, amused by the screams he heard at the Coliseum, said, "I was doin' this when Tom Jones was just a little, ol' kid."

The 1956 crowd in Phoenix which heard Elvis was Korean War, Eisenhower vintage. They saw in Presley their dreams for sexual freedom and social change. Elvis squirmed and wiggled in his tight pants and teenage girls screamed and sobbed.

Elvis The Pelvis, circa 1956, sang until the wax melted on his hair. He belted out one big song after another as his guitar thumped on his chest. He was whisked to the outdoor stage at the fairground in a Cadillac. He departed in the same car a few hours later. He and his adoring fans were physically and emotionally exhausted.

His voice, mannerisms, gestures, dark flashing eyes and deep dimple suggested to the tender, young crowd embraces on lover's lane, a departure from the routine, overt naughtiness.

He was the idol of motorcycle gangs who wore black, leather jackets and tattoos on forearms and who rode fast with slim blondes clinging to their waists.

Fourteen years ago, Elvis was the whole show. His worshippers were those in the early and midteens who visualized him as a rebel, a non-conformist, a lover.

On stage, he still exudes sex, sin, stolen pleasures. Audiences continue to be dazzled by his body - wide shoulders tapering to a slim waist, long sideburns almost to the jaw, wild, unruly hair hanging in his face, the twists, the turns, the bumps and grinds. When he loosened his green scarf and tossed it away, there were screams of delight. When he tugged at the laces of his shirt, girls and women cheered.

"Turn this way, Elvis" a woman called from the balcony. Elvis responded grinning.

Fans called out names of songs they wanted him to sing and Elvis said, "Before the night is over, baby, you'll have it all."

Presley has done it all before. He appeared a little bored and tired about the whole thing. He stopped singing one song. "I don't sound very good on this one tonight," he said. Another song bombed and Presley knew it. "That was supposed to be sung seriously," he said to his accompanists.

Teen-agers were there bu the socio-economic composition of the crowd was different than in 1956. The Establishment was on hand - blondes, brownettes, brunettes, Presley's contemporaries and those not many years his junior.

Presley's male contemporaries were there, too - ex-motorcycle drivers who have shed black, leather jackets for business suits and other garb of the real world of work, veterans of Seoul and Pork Chop Hill, professional men, mid-managers, others. They were all there - the beautiful people, the well-mannered, well-dressed teen-agers, a few senior citizens, some fading flower children, some younf bearded hippies.

The teen-agers of the 1950s are today's pushing-40 adults. They sat on comfortable chairs in the refrigerated Coliseum in contrast to the 1956 outdoors show on a hot, dusty night. The women streamed into the coliseum in miniskirts, pants suits, dark hosiery, high heels, plunging necklines. They were dressed to the hilt for husband and Elvis, Their men walked beside them wearing ties, white shirts, dress trousers and sport coats. Survivors of the 1950s and the golden age of Presley were conspicuous with obsolete ducktail haircuts meticulously combed and held in place by wax.

From the balcony, Elvis resembled in his white costume a middle-age tennis player, a karate student and a physician on TV's Marcus Welby, M.D. When Elvis sensed the audience was drifting he brought them back again with the big rock songs of the '50s. He was backed up by a chorus of eight men and women who overpowered him when he faltered on some high notes. They added a musical dimension contrasting to Presley's damn-the-torpedoes, full-steamahead treatment of almost every song.

Elvis sang a lot, talked little. He fumbled for the name of the band accompanying him and someone rescued him with a cue card.

Photographs and other Presley memorabilia sold big during the 1956 appearance but in 1970 youthful sellers of Presley photo albums wandered up and down the stairs of the Coliseum finding few takers.

Since the 1950s, the nation has become saturated with young, middle-age and senior citizen imitators of Elvis The Pelvis. Customers today can pick the pelvis of their choice in assorted shapes, sizes and colors - solos, doubles, trios, quartets, quintets, rock, soul and the rest.

In the two decades since the daddy of them all blazed onto the scene, a nation of young people has been weaned on Vietnam, inflation, assassinations, drugs, The Generation Gap, burn baby burn. They bought Elvis at the Coliseum about as much as they buy anything. He turned them on as much as anything. But to them now he's just another millionaire who puts on his tight trousers one leg at a time, a rich guy who doesn't walk on the water.

After he finished 55 minutes on stage, Elvis walked off abruptly and the audience began to applaud tentatively, hoping for an encore. Shortly, a voice of an unseen announcer said, "Elvis has left the building. He will not return."

This time no Cadillac whisked him off Prince Charming-like while he waved to his adoring fans as in 1956. There was no last display of the deep dimple, no last word-not even two fingers signifying peace.

The guys and gals from the Korean War years and the Vietnam War years and the Now Generation filed out of the Coliseum into the warm night. They talked of tomorrow and its problems, diets unfaithfully followed, the kids in school, the neighbors down the street.

They discussed almost everything except Elvis.

Courtesy Of Archie Bald