Home > Newspaper Articles > 1972 > November 12, 1972 (5:00 pm). San Bernardino, CA.

It's Just Elvis Presley Next Door
by Robert Hilburn
Los Angeles Times
November 14, 1972

After being unable to see Elvis Presley anywhere in concert for more than 10 years, the idea of seeing the biggest single recording / concert attraction of our time at 5pm. on a Sunday afternoon in San Bernardino - of all 11 places - was too incredulous an event to miss.

Can you imagine, for instance, Brian Epstein bringing the Beatles to Fresno at the height of their career? It is, I suppose, part of Col. Tom Parker's unpredictable genius that allows for such surprises. Maybe Parker just wanted some of his Palm Springs friends a chance to see Elvis close to home. More likely, it is part of a well-designed plan to keep Presley in front of the public without retracting his steps.

Though Presley has been touring extensively for two years, he rarely plays the same hall more than once. He may go back to the same area, but it is usually to a different arena. In 1970, for instance, Presley appeared at the Inglewood Forum, while this time he is playing the Swing Auditorium (Sunday and Monday) and the Long Beach Arena (tonight and Wednesday night). All shows are sold out.

New Each Time

Thus, each stop on a Presley tour carries that special bit of excitement and enthusiasm that comes from playing a new hall. There is a feeling of something special about each concert, a feeling that reflects itself in both the hall employes and the audience. And that tinge of excitement was in the air Sunday.

Though the Swing Auditorium has a long history of rock concerts (from Joe Cocker to Rod Stewart), the building, because of its fairgrounds setting and exhibition hall design, has a definite county fair atmosphere to it, an atmosphere that was reinforced Sunday by the family nature of the audience. Unlike the average rock concert, the smoke in the air Sunday was from regular cigarets.

Rather than the class of 1967 that you might find in predominance at a Rolling Stones concert, the crowd Sunday probably centered around the class of 1957. There was, from the clean, pressed clothing to the carefully combed hair, a middle America feel about the audience, the kind of country music audience that may well have first greeted Elvis some 18 years ago (gulp) at Memphis' Overton Park.

The Sincerest of Tones

It was an eager, excited audience (most of the dozen or so people I asked said they were seeing Presley for the first time) that listened politely as Al Dvorin, an amble associate of Parker, went through a long pre-show announcement that included, in the sincerest of tones, some lines that, despite all the "great, appreciative audiences" that have seen Presley, he understands, honestly now, the San Bernardino audiences are the best anywhere.

The respectful applause that followed was not so much an indication the audience believed the flattery, but that anyone who were an "Elvis Show Member" badge on his lapel was all right with them. Before the applause died down, Dvorin began a rapid-fire sales pitch that squeezed into 60 seconds plugs for (1) the new "Elvis on Tour" film, (2) the live Madison Square Garden album, (3) the "Burning Love" single and (4) the new "Separate Ways" single. Before leaving the stage he also reminded the audience that photos and buttons were available at seven souvenir stands around the auditorium

If someone tried a similar sales pitch at the average rock concert, he'd be booted of the stage. Indeed, the Rolling Stones had a guy tell the audience about posters at one of the early stops on their recent U.S. tour. There was sucha chorus of boos, however, they discontinued the announcements.

Presley's show, from the material to the Instrumental backing, was similar in most ways to the ones he has been doing since his return to live performances in 1969. It was a mixture of Las Vegas and Memphis that drew the typical audience enthusiasm - from the shrieks to the continuous flashbulbs

Despite objections I have to some of the Presley material these days (i.e. overly dramatic arrangements of such songs as "What Now My Love" which he did Sunday, and "The Impossible DReam), his voice has the best balance of country, gospel and blues influences of anyone who has stepped to a microphone during the rock era. His manner, too, is admirably unpretentious, allowing him to re-create his early rock gyrations with just the right touch of humor.

It may have taken Presley 18 years to get to San Bernardino, but everyone seemed pleased when he finally made it. Even Parker and Dvorin. The souvenir stands did a brisk business

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez