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CONCERT DATE: February 20 1977 (8:30 pm). Charlotte NC.

Elvis Gets Past The Fooling, Proves Why He Still Reigns
by Faye Gaillard
Charlotte Observer
February 21, 1977

For the first half hour, he just fooled around - strutting around the stage, posing for the flashbulbs and kissing the women who made it past the police. The music seemed almost an afterthought as he ran through the oldies - Jailhouse Rock, Don't Be Cruel and the others. He busied himself throwing scarves to the faithful and proving that his pelvic wiggles are not a thing of the past.

But Elvis Presley didn't get where he is simply because of the way he moves. And every now and then there were flashes of the old power, the spark and the soul of his early days in Memphis. Back then, he would wander into Sun Records studios with Johnny Cash and other rockabilly buddies and they would sing their hearts out for hours - belting out, among other things, all the old gospel songs on which they were raised.

Nobody made music any better, and during the early going at the Charlotte Coliseum, there were scattered notes here and there that made you wonder if he finally was gonna do it. But always he would pull up short, rely on the grins, the charisma and the legend - until finally, a little before 10.45, he came to the gospel classic how Great Thou Art. And that was it. You could see why Elvis Presley is still going strong after 20 years, while dozens of others have fallen by the way. As he came to the part where he belts out the title, he sounded like Mario Lanza with soul - cutting loose a series of high notes that would tingle the spine of even the diehard sceptic.

From that point on, the music seemed to get hold. He backed away a little bit from edge of the stage and paid less attention to the cameras and the shrieks. He was good on Hound Dog, mellow on Early Morning Rain. But the crescendo came on a song called Hurt.

It's an old rock song that Elvis didn't record until a couple of years ago. The key ingredient is its range - an awesome collection of notes that would leave a normal set of vocal chords in shreds. Elvis ran through the song, bending over the mike as sweat dripped from his forehead. He finished what seemed his most potent style, but wasn't satisfied, and mumbled to the band: "Let's do that last part again." He did, and if there was anyone among the packed-house crowd who had thought Elvis was a fluke, they no doubt came away converted.

"There just isn't anyone like him," exulted Mary Burleson, a 35-year old fan who saw her first Elvis show in 1956. "He can sing it all - rock, country, gospel, you name it. Elvis is the best." He may well be, at least when he really cuts loose.

You have to wonder, though, how he takes it seriously after all these years - when he's besieged in town after town by 40ish women, rushing the stage with everything from fruit baskets to five-foot teddy bears. Just the rumour that his car is outside is enough to leave them five-deep at the Coliseum windows, scrawling Elvis graffiti in the dust on the glass. It was an hysterical evening from the beginning. The parking lot was filling steadily by 7 - despite the sold-out house and the 8.30 showtime. Elvis himself didn't come on until 10, and the tension was so thick by then even some fan who bore a faint resemblance to Presley was mobbed for autographs. The madness repeats itself tonight.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward