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CONCERT DATE: August 28, 1976. Houston, TX

Elvis: a disappointing visit at a shrine
by Dale Adamson
Houston Chronicle
August 29, 1976

Attending an Elvis Presley concert these days is like making a disappointing visit to a national shrine. First, there's a repetitious series of Historical-Marker-Ahead: opening acts. Then, a climactic first sighting of the king, a rock'n'roll landmark even 20 years after the fact. And finally, the disillusionment of discovering that the landmark has been strouded with souvenir stands, hawkers and vendors, overrun by tourists and decled out like a Christmas package in sequins and glitter.

Presley made one sold-out appearance in the Summit Saturday afternoon, drawing a typically enthusiastic and uncritical audience that was interested less in music and entertainment then in the mere ephemeral presence of E*L*V*I*S.

Once the crowd was settled in with a 45-minute prelude by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet of gospel singers, the so-called "comedy" of Jack Kahan and the cheerleading performance of the Sweet Inspirations, the stage was set with quasireligious pomposity for Elvis' arrival. Policeman took their places in the aisles and in front of the stage. The band tuned up and slowly the grandiose strains of "Thus Sprach Zarathustra" rolled out the musical red carpet.

The crowd erupted in a single scream of delight when Elvis strode on stage. Puffy-faced and dressed is a gaudy costume with a heavily spangled vest and six-inch wide belt, he posed for the thousands of Instamatic flashcubes during a quick run-through of "C.C. Rider."

"I'm just trying to wake up," he joked tiredly after staggering through a lack luster "I Got A Woman" that was more notable for his calculatedly subtle hip movements than his singing.

Elvis still has a remarkable strong, deeply resonant voice that, unfortunately, he displayed only rarely Saturday. He spent most of his time tossing scarves like Mardi Gras favors to the audience, shaking hands, receiving flowers and presents and kissing the women persistent enough to break through the throng to the stage and pull themselves up close enough to the King that he didn't have to lean over too far.

He exerted no energy at all in a medley of his early rock tunes - "All Shook Up," "Teddy Bear" and "Don't Be Cruel" - and then complained that the band was too loud.

James Burton's electric guitar kicked off "Jailhouse Rock" with enough power to propel Elvis comfortably through the song to an intermittently effective "Fever" and an unabashedly patriotic "America, The Beautiful," which drew mere applause than any other musical number of the afternoon.

But his between-song mumblings and his insistent attention to the front row crush of fans at the expense of the other 17,000 audience members left a mighty dull finish on an otherwise polished performance.

He introduced his entire on-stage entourage - some 17 or 18 musicians and singers plus a conductor and small orchestra right down to Charlie Hodge, "the guy that gives me scarves, brings me my water and sings harmony with me." Let's hear it for Charlie - the hardest workin' man in show biz.

Elvis pulled himself up momentarily when he launched into his current single, "Hurt," singing with enough conviction to carry over into a pleasant, but unchallenging version of Willie Nelson's "Ain't funny How Times Slips Away." Then, he had the houselights turned up to get a look at the "real" show - the undyingly loyal fans of every age screaming and scrambling in hopes of possessing just one little piece of Elvis like a chip from the petrified forest. I wonder how many of those fans - who will surely claim that Saturday was one of the finest moments in their lives - noticed that after an hour and 20 minutes show, there was no ovation whatsoever for Elvis or the band? Just a crowded rush to the exits and the traffic jam waiting in the parking lots.

Review courtesy of Francesc Lopez