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CONCERT DATE: April 25, 1973 (2:30 pm) Fresno, CA. Selland Arena.

On The Aisle: Elvis Presley
by David Hale
The Fresno Bee
April 26, 1973

EVEN AFTER nearly 20 years, Elvis Presley, the ex-Memphis truck-driver they said could never last, is still called the greatest concert attraction in the country.

What is the special quality possessed by Presley, now 38, that enabled him to shatter all records for a single attraction at Fresno's Selland Arena? The gross of about $120,000 for two shows, yesterday more than double the previous record held by a combination live-TV boxing match starring Ali and Frazier.

Ask that starry-eyed 19-year-old girl, who continues to stand there gazing at the stage long after Presley has departed, clutching her $5 "Super Souvenir" poster of Presley: "I don't know what it is that he has," she said, "I just know it's there."

WELL, THAT IT IS. They came to affirm it in fur wraps and evening gowns, in miniskirts and gold and orange pantsuits, middle-aged women with husbands in tow, under 30 secretaries with bouffant hairdos, and boys and girls who weren't even around when Presley first exploded on the national consciousness in the mid-1950's. And almost 100 percent white.

Some of them griped about not being able to get into the hall sooner than 90 minutes before the show. Or they griped at finding their $10 seats in the upper balcony: "Is it that far, John?" exclaimed a chubby matron in a flowered pantsuit to the man beside her. "My God! Will we be able to see him?" Or they shrilled "Where's Elvis?" as the first half of the show wore on with no sign of their idol. The supporting acts - comedian Jackie Kahane, a 20-piece band and a girl's trio, the Sweet Inspirations were warming things up, as if it was necessary.

AND THEN the intermission lights went down. No announcement, just the band, complete with tympanic proclaiming the Presence with - for heaven's sake - the opening theme from "2001: Space Odyssey" with all the drama that $100,000 worth of sound equipment can muster, and spotlights stabbing through the dark to the back of the stage. Rising crescendo of screams.

Grown women and girls alike launch themselves at the stage as he appears, bounding to stage center, resplendant in white, bejeweled jumpsuit with high collar and white boots. He stands, half smiling, sultry gaze under thick eyebrows fixing on something in the 18th row. Louder screams.

He reaches for an enameled guitar and the band goes into the opening chords of "C.C. Rider," and just like that , he's singing, only it's hard to hear for the tumult. Spraddle-legged, he twitches the guitar, suspended at crotch level, ever so gently, looking up through heavy lids.

The 17-year-old blonde in the seat ahead gasps and clutches her companion. Mike in hand he strolls, and a widening fan of exploding flashbulbs traces the passage from one side of the stage to the other. When the screams die, he goes on to "She's Good to Me."

"MY GOD, SUE," exclaimed another chubby matron in red pantsuit "Did you see that diamond. It's THAT big, on his left hand. Did you see it ...wow!. Oh my God." Gold crucifixes flashes, too, from the necks of Presley and his quartet, fronting the band.

"My first movie song was "Love Me Tender," he intones , reaching for a glass of water . More screams. "I just said I'd like to do it, I didn't say I was going to." Groans. But he does it.

He moves toward the back of the stage where guitarist and backup singer Charley Rogers places something around his neck: The matron in the red pantsuit taps you excitedly on the shoulder and exclaims "He's going to give scarves away. Oh, look, this one's blue."

He parcels them out, one for "Believe Me," one for "Heartbreak Hotel," for variation on "Treat Me Like A Fool," he hitches up his bejeweled belt, stretches one leg tentatively (ecstatic screams). "Blue Suede Shoes" culminates in a brunette of about 30 plunging through a line of security officers at the edge of the stage to collect a scarf; she also collects a kiss, full on the mouth, while pandemonium breaks out .

"His pictures don't begin to do him justice," a 15-year-old camera fan tells her friend. Neither did Elvis's recent TV special. His voice comes through, strong and firm even on the slow ballads, in contrast to the TV show in which his singing often seemed short of breath and tired. Or was it just the charisma of the live entertainer covering up?

PRESLEY IS A put on: "Baby!" screams a woman in balcony left. "Over here," "I hear you, woman," he says finally acknowledging the insistence. "I'm just gettin' in the mood." But though he may joke with himself, he is very serious about his work: "Let's do that last part over," he told the group, following "How Great Thou Art." There were too many feedbacks and we weren't together."

In "Can't Walk Out," he takes off the belt, gets down in a crouch on one leg (more screams), and acknowledges his age by changing the lyrics, "I hope this suit don't split I'm wearin."

Throughout, Presley gave the impression of being a man merely relaxing with friends. He prefaced shuddering his shoulders in "Fever" with a wink and a smirk in the direction of the guitarist James Burton. And he got the expected screams.

After a feeling rendition of "Dixie" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic," even the musicians smiled. "We had a very good audience this afternoon," Presley said , now weary, as Rogers buttoned a cape to his shoulders. "But you're fantastic." And the audience applauded in agreement.

Then tumult again as Presley holds his cape wide and poses like a king presenting himself for the adulation of the masses. And then, as hundreds of women admirers bolted past the ushers and police to the stage, he was gone.

"Ladies and gentlemen," a swarthy emcee in a dark blue business suit proclaimed to quell the natives, "Elvis Presley has left the building."

After 20 years, Presley had finally affirmed in person, his legendary showmanship and charisma. Clearly exultant was the teen-age camera fan.

"I saw him in San Francisco at the Cow Palace," she offered. "He was much better here." If anybody disagreed, it wasn't evident.

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez