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CONCERT DATE: May 28 1977 (8:30 pm). Philadelphia PA.

Dolphins Perform Better Than Paunchy Elvis
by Matt Damsker
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
May 28, 1977

Assuming he still cares, it's about time Elvis Presley got off his faded laurels and started entertaining people again. For the past two years at least, his concerts have been little more than perfunctory "appearances" during which the reputed King of Rock 'n'Roll goes through his familiar motions, although to judge from his appearance Saturday night at the Spectrum, he's not even up to motion anymore.

Elvis '77 is paunchy, puffy, lumbering, frequently off-key, apparently under-rehearsed (he has to read the first verse of My Way from a page of sheet music) and, for all that, the most outrageously condescending showman I have ever seen. He performed Saturday as if just roused from a drunken slumber, slurred his witless patter as if still slightly in-the-bag, and otherwise gave no sign of artistic integrity. There are dolphins who perform more affectingly.

What's worse his fans don't mind. They remain adoring and uncritical; in fact, Saturday's capacity throng seemed quite pleased to see Elvis wiggle a little - very, very little - bestow a few stage front kisses, toss out a succession of sweaty scarves, and plod through his tired repertoire.

Apparently they aren't offended by his contempt - for that's what such indifferent, rote showmanship amounts to - so long as they reap a few snapshots or a few nostalgic rushes from the evening.

What galls me most about Elvis' current stage presence are the comparisons it invites. For example, Frank Sinatra - an even older pop legend - has not only maintained his credibility as an entertainer but has managed to keep his act fresh and flexible. Elvis, on the other hand, is still trotting out virtually the same snake-oily road show with which he began his "comeback" some three years ago. Neither good rock'n'roll nor good Las Vegas pop, it features an insultingly crass announcer ("Don't forget, there's still time to visit the Elvis Super Souvenir stations in the lobby...") and a series of mediocre opening acts, all of whom prove more stageworthy - at least they're trying - than Elvis. Indeed, this sort of shameless exploitation may not make any difference to dyed-in-the-wool Elvis fanatics, but it's doing nothing to enhance, let alone assure, his reputation for younger generations. As rich as Croesus - richer, probably - he seems wholly interested in taking the money and running. Why?

Courtesy of Scott Hayward