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CONCERT DATE: June 24, 1977. Madison, WI.

Elvis Does It Again! The King Takes Madison by Storm
by Dave Wagner
Capital Times
June 25, 1977

How do you start? How can you begin to explain that the Elvis concert (he's dropped the surname as so much unnecessary luggage) was one of the best events of its kind ever to hit Madison?

Begin and end with the arrival of Elvis' arrival in Madison and his departure. He flew into town about 1 AM Friday morning and almost immediately broke up a fight at an East Side gas station. When he left the Coliseum 22 hours later, tiny brawls broke out in front of the stage, on the one hand from knots of fans who struggled over a few of the scarves he had flung to the crowd, and on the other between adolescent and middle-aged men whose patience, by concert's end, had worn very thin. (The full attention of every woman in the hall, it seemed, had been straining toward one man - Elvis - for so long, and with such intensity, that the nerves of some men were anxiously and formidably brittle.)

Tension, anxiety, excitement. Just the thing for reams of notes, which this reviewer (uncustomarily) took. Even the first half of the show, which featured above-average Las Vegas show-lounge material, with a gospel quintet, a comic and a strong female trio, all backed by a first-rate orchestra called the Hot Hilton Horns (a name Elvis could not recall later on), seemed worth the note-taking. But then came intermission and critical mass. Over heard during the break: "I hope my wife's heart can take this stuff." "Isn't that something?" "Yeah, in about ten minutes almighty hell is going to break loose." And so it did.

The first wave was made up of women in their late 30s or early 40s - contemporaries of Elvis, in other words (he's about 42). The scores of cops hired to keep back were only mildly successful; they urged, instructed and finally screamed them back into their seats. Behind me a mother and daughter team worked it out. When the mother couldn't make it, she yelled at her daughter to force her way down into the pit in front of the stage and get one of those scarves! The daughter, along with a far more massive, intense and resolute brigade of teenagers, walked or jumped over the wall of cops in roughly three separate assaults to reach their beachhead. They were beautiful.

A 15-year-old was crouched next to my aisle seat, waiting to spring just before the end of the show; she looked over to me and confessed, "I'm shaking all over," and a moment later leaped over a young cop's outstretched arm and virtually flew to the stage. In her strength and single-mindedness she was, I think, one of the loveliest sights I've ever seen.

It was an outpouring of women's lust. Yes, the quibblers will point out that it was a carefully controlled outburst, and they will have a point. When the aisles were empty, Elvis would dangle a scarf (stained at best by a single drop of his sweat since it had adorned his neck for a mere three seconds), and the aisles would be filled with ravenous idolators, heaving roses and bouquets or t-shirts at him to draw his attention; and the cops would lock arms and force them back, with only a dozen or so having won the token, and Elvis would wait until sheer force had quietened them to the point where it was safe to administer the secular sacrament again.

Notice that there has been as yet no mention of the music. Would anyone "review" the appearance of Gabriel and his angelic choirs? Maybe this way: in the middle of Teddy Bear, one woman broke through the police lines and extended her arm in supplication. Elvis grandly unfurled his scarf and lightly dangled it toward her (as he always did, as though he were feeding piranhas), and just as she jumped for joy at her prize, an enemy teenager dashed out of the audience and snatched it from her. Crestfallen, she argued for its return, but without success. But before Teddy Bear was over, justice was served. Not only did she get another scarf, she held it up to the audience, and a good number of the 10000 throats in the audience burst with jubilation at her victory.

It was these tiny dramas that made the evening. My favorite came right after intermission. Just within earshot a teenager said to her mother, "Do you know who that is?" Yes, she replied in song, "It's George Holmes Buick, to-day-ay-ay." George Holmes spun around and said, "that's tires, tires." For a moment, at least, celebrityhood was the province of the blessed, and one was blessed simply by being in the proximity of one.

Through it all, through the opening C.C. Rider and I've Got a Woman and Amen, Jailhouse Rock, Love Me Tender and on and on, the same theme surfaced again and again. Comic Jack Cahane pointed out that, in one sense or another, and probably not in any orthodox feminist sense, when Elvis comes to town some women declare their liberation. "Are you going to take me see Elvis or am I going alone?" One day in the year when a woman who has put up with routine because routine is life suddenly declares to herself and her husband, "This is what I want, and you will go along with it or be ignored." And he goes along, sheepishly, resentfully curious in a way, but also full of respect. He has no choice and is awed by that power. So are walls of cops, and they don't understand it, either.

At the end, after the flying wedge of seven personal bodyguards surround the King and break for the exit, there are lots of echoes in the air. A few men, as I said, break into physical tiffs. Several women mill about the stage as though to catch the dying fall of a sound that promised so much more than music. And a thoroughly spent crowd ambles quietly toward the parking lot, involved not so much in what they have seen of Elvis as what they have seen in themselves, some remote longing and - above all - power which needed an Elvis to be called out and made visible.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward