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CONCERT DATE: June 26 1974 (8:30 pm). Louisville KY.

Elvis!. The Presley appeal outlasts the years
by Billy Reed
The Courier Journal
June 27, 1974

A middle-aged ex-truck driver from Memphis, Tenn., last night drew a throbbing screaming mob of some 20,000 to Louisville's Freedom Hall, which - of course - was the largest mob to inhabit that spacious edifice since the last time he was in town.

When he finally came on stage, with his band playing the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey," his familiar wide-shouldered , slim-hipped body was draped with this incredible outfit - the style was sort of what you might call "Early Aztec Buck Rogers" - with blue sequined peacocks on front and back and peacock feathers on the flared trousers.

And then, for some 45 minutes, with flashbulbs popping like fireflies in the darkened auditorium, while strobe lights flashed with machine-gun rapidity, while graying grandmothers and halter-topped tenny-boppers stood side by side and screamed out their ever-livin' lungs, Elvis Presley took everyone on a trip through time and space, a journey from reality to yesterday to fantasyland and back home again.

He stood up there and wiggled and waggled, postured and pouted, snarled and snapped. Alternately cruel and caressing, and always laughing - at himself, at his band, mostly at the audience - Elvis proved once again that he still is the only man alive who can bring thousands of women to their knees by standing on his right foot and wiggling his left foot in the air.

Once, early in the show, Presley was trying to get out a simple sentence, but the crowd wouldn't let him. Three times he took microphone in hand and said, "Well..." Each time he was halted by shrieks. Finally Elvis grinned his cockiest, most self-satisfied grin, leered at the audience and said:

"If that's all I gotta do, man, I got it made."

Well, that's about all he had to do, man, and if Elvis Presley hasn't got it made, then the rest of us mere mortals are in worse shape than we think. Like the warm-up comedian said "Tryin' to look sexy next to Elvis is like trying to look tall next to Wilt Chamberlain."

The Presley show last night was superb, if you like Presley, although perhaps not worth the $100-$175 that some scalpers reportedly were asking for tickets. The crowd got what it came for - especially the lucky women who latched onto the multi-colored autographed scarfs that Elvis continually wrapped around his sweaty neck before bestowing them on members of the audience. Everybody, on leaving, seemed to be in a happy, contented mood.

The entertainment was so captivating, in fact, that it almost made you forget the slick, high-pressure hard-sell that proceeded it.

On the way into the auditorium, before the show, at intermission and after it was all over, hawkers were all over the place, pushing everything from the Giant Elvis Photo Album ($3) to Elvis opera glasses ($9) to Elvis buttons ($1).

And for the unfortunate majority unable to get close enough to the stage, management thoughtfully provided Super Sized Elvis Autographed Scarfs for a mere $5. Presumably these scarfs were not pre-dipped in Elvis sweat. But, then, who's to know the difference?

Impossible as it was to miss bumping into the hawkers, management also was thoughtful enough to remind you that all these "Elvis treasures" were there waiting to be snapped up. Every few minutes or so, the master of ceremonies would see fit to remind you to "take home a poster to a friend or loved one," or "this is last call for Elvis souvenirs."

And people were buying these items, too, almost as fast as the hawkers could take their money. When you take the profit from ticket sales (every seat was sold within days of the concert's announcement, for prices ranging from $5 to $10) and add the profits from concessions, it's safe to assume that Elvis and his entourage left town with more money than has changed hands here since the Kentucky Derby.

But, of course, none of this bothered people like Louise Woods of Louisville. She had a seat on the second row from the stage, and the contents of her large pocketbook included a pair of purple panties, which she intended to throw at the stage.

"No, my husband doesn't mind," she said. "He thought it was great because then he could go to the racetrack."

Almost 40 years old now, Presley is a remarkably well-preserved specimen. The hair is still full and jet black, although modishly styled instead of greased back in the old 1950s duck-tail. The face is remarkably free of wrinkles and the stomach still flat. And as for the moves - well, suffice it to say that even in middle age Elvis Presley can still throw a hip and wiggle his pelvis with the best of 'em.

Of all his numbers - he did soul, early rock, late rock, rhythm-n-blues, hymns and patriotic anthems - one of the best, and certainly the most poignant, was the one with the line, "Ain't it funny, how time slips away?"

Indeed, a teen-ager grown up with Elvis couldn't help but reflect that time has slipped away on all of us. Was it 18 years ago that this man, this phenomenon was first loosed upon us? That he stirred our souls with "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Hound Dog?" That he, in fact, revolutionized this whole business of popular music, not to mention the process of growing up? That he was considered so risque that Ed Sullivan would only show him from the waist up?

Today, interestingly enough, Elvis appears to have come full circle. Once the force that rccked the nation's morals, today he's sort of warm and comfortable, tame and innocent, like the teddy bears a few of his fans threw on the stage last night. Now nobody gets upset with Elvis. Instead, they only laugh heartily when he shakes and says, "if I git 'em goin' all at once, they'll have to put me in a strait jacket and put me away."

Near the end of the show Elvis asked that the house lights could be turned up so he could see the wall-to-wall humanity that carpeted Freedom Hall.

"Good grief, I thought I'd played the Astrodome," he said. "If I had known this place and this crowd would have been this big. I'd of dressed up daddy in this suit and let him come out here."

Then, after another number, Elvis strutted up and down the stage, bowed a few times, bent over the edge to let a few fans touch him and was whisked away by a cordon of police and bodyguards.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the announcer, "Elvis has left the building." That occasioned a giant groan. Like the man said, ain't it funny how time slips away?

Courtesy Of The Louisville Public Library