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CONCERT DATE: November 24, 1976. Reno, NV.

Presley Memories Stronger Than Reality
by Pat O'Driscoll
Nevada State Journal
November 26, 1976

When Elvis Presley bounced up onstage Wednesday night amid a blinding blaze of popping flashbulbs, a sold-out Centennial Coliseum shook with screams and cheers.

But about 70 minutes later, as -"The King" was wisked off the stage to the closing strains of "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You," the din of shuffling feet heading for the exits rivaled the applause of the Elvis fans who were still in their seats.

For the true Elvis followers - and there were many at the Thanksgiving Eve show in Reno - nothing mattered. They had made their pilgrimage, they had seen their idol. But the star's sometimes thinvoiced replicas of his hits - and then usually jammed into medleys or abbreviated versions - might have left the curious first-time watchers of the real, live Elvis wondering what all the commotion was about. It left this writer, at least, wanting more fire, but getting only smoke.

Perhaps it was the commercial, carnival machine surrounding the aura of the rock 'n' roll star who, at age 41, can deserve to slow down the pace and bask in the worship of millions of followers. The man's magic - with a little slick sales savvy - was nicely distilled into buttons, photo albums, programs, $8 posters and mini-binoculars hawked by roving vendors and at "Elvis Super-Souvenir" concession stands.

The audience - a milling mosaic of old and young, denim grubby and chiffon chic - appreciated Elvis with the standard shrieks, screams and cheers. But the reaction was mechanical, with polite roars as songs opened and closed, and dead silence in between.

Perhaps they were too busy munching their foot-long hot dogs and spilling their ice-filled soft drink cups. The whole scene seemed suited more to football or basketball, not a music concert.

Ahhhh - but this is Elvis. And Elvis - like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie - is all-American. What better way to celebrate him than with the commercial trappings of all-American hucksterism?

If Elvis is 41 years old, his voice doesn't reflect it. When he wants to be strong, he's dynamite. But when he slacks off - as he did on such potential show-stoppers as "Hound Dog," "All Shook Up" and "Johnny B. Goode" - the result is thin and muddled. With a bit more effort he could have turned those songs - all mercilessly shortened for his stage show - into grabbers.

He did grab tightly with a full-voiced burst of the good old Elvis in "Hurt" - his new release of an old hit tailor-made to the love-ballad mold that is his latter-day staple.

Presley also put pelvis-pepping pizazz into his slithery rendition of "Fever." The squeals of delight from moms and daughters were never more frenzied.

True to the evening's Thanksgiving-Bicentennial-Americana aura.

Presley drew sustained applause for the stirring, patriotic way he sang "America the Beautiful." The martial drum beat, the fluttering chorus and the burning horns undoubtedly escorted many a heart up the listener's throat.

Dressed in his gilt-edged white jumpsuit, with an embroidered, open V-neck cut to his belt, Elvis didn't show the fat or paunch that past rumor said he carried. But his selection of songs reflected the inevitable slowdown that has come about after a more than 20-year career at the top. The fast and furious longs were short. The gentle, warbling love ballads were drawn out. At one point, Elvis took a breather while one vocalist from his entourage of singers and players gave two thoughtful but out-of-place interpretations of "Danny Boy" and "Walk With Me."

Elvis played with his audience skillfully to keep the interest up. Just 15 minutes into his act, he was mopping his brow with pastel scarves and slipping them to the dozens of outstretched, begging hands which clutched at him from below the stage. As each scarf disappeared into the clawing mob, Elvis' water-and-scarves man Charlie Hodge would wrap another of the dozens of trademark tokens around the star's neck.

Elvis' banter with the lively audience above and behind the stage was proof of the magical spell he continues to hold over audiences. He answered the shouts of "Turn around! Turn around!" with sly peeks and quick spins. They returned the favor with more blinding flashbulbs.

The musicians behind Presley were solid, although they had to overcome some tinny sound system quirks in the early going. The usual array of rhinestone-studded guitarists, keyboard men and drummer was ably complemented by the brass of the Hot Hilton Horns, the Las Vegas Hilton's house band.

As for the three opening acts, brevity was the only redeeming social value. In successive 15-minute sets, two singing groups and a Canadian comedian warmed up the audience for Elvis. Jack Kahane, the comedian, shouldn't have gotten through customs. His insipid, stale jokes about married life and the generation gap were only by his even worse Elvis jokes ("It's a thrill to be here in Reno and have Elvis on my show.")

J. V. Sumner and the Stamps opened the show with the billing of "one of the top Gospel quartets in the business." Their music was about as Gospel as a dime-store novel. And the third act - longtime Elvis backups the Sweet Inspirations - was hot on the full-voiced soul numbers, but hopelessly thin and flat in an attempt at a breathless ballad.

The needlessly long half-hour intermission before Presley came onstage seemed more exciting than the openers, what with the frequent announcements that "You still have time to get those great, Elvis supersouvenirs at the concession stands."

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez