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CONCERT DATE: June 26, 1977. Indiananpolis, IN.

Elvis Concert Like a Sideshow
By Zach Dunkin
Indianapolis News
June 27, 1977

Elvis Presley led another crowd of screamers into bananaland last night during his concert in Market Square Arena and the question is why? Not necessarily why do fans still go bonkers over the 42-year-old legend, but why does Presley still continue to tour? He obviously doesn't need the money. He apparently doesn't care about the way his concerts are packaged either.

Before the Elvis eccentrics start scrambling through cluttered desk drawers for stationery, it should be made clear here that Presley is not entirely at fault with his concert format. Compared to today's increasingly competitive and sophisticated concert formats for the top-dollar performer, Presley's has become downright tacky and outdated. Last night's lighting was only adequate and the sound was poor compared with some of today's top national tours.

The Presley concert is like a sideshow with its warmup group fluff. It's like waiting through the sword-swallower and the fire-eater before seeing the REAL attraction in the back room. Prior to Presley's appearance shortly after 10 o'clock (to the overused "Also Sprach Zarathustra" theme) the audience had to sit through nearly an hour of warmup waste -- a brass group ("direct from Las Vegas," no less) called Joe Guercio and the Hot Hilton Horns; a gospel quartet, J.D. Sumners and the Stamps; a comedian, Jack Kahanne, and a soul trio, the Sweet Inspirations.

Not that the warmups lacked talent, but there was an overwhelming sigh of disappointment when it was announced there would be an intermission. When you pay $15 to see Elvis, you should see Elvis for 3 hours instead of 1 hour, 20 minutes. If Elvis can't go the distance then his people shouldn't charge so much. The souvenir hawking should embarrass Presley, too. A guy actually came on the P.A. three times and urged the crowd to visit the souvenir stands. He even listed the prices. The vendors in the crowd sounded as if they were hawking balloons at a circus.

With a waistline of 42 inches, Presley may not be able to move like he used to, but the man can sing when he tries. Twice last night he did it magnificently, especially on Hurt, when he made a serious effort to reach some difficult notes. He sang his heart out again on Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water, but for some reason had to read the lyrics from a sheet. He did approximately 20 numbers if you want to count the quickies. Sure, he's done these songs thousands of times over his 24-year career, but some ticket buyers were seeing them done for the first time. Presley didn't take enough of the singing business seriously.

It's time ardent Presley fans quit protecting their idol and start demanding more. They know "the King" can do better. It's rather ironic that Presley closed his tour in the arena last night, while Chicago will open its in the same hall tonight, beginning at 8.

The group's summer tour will debut here with a new stage and some never-heard-before numbers from the coming Chicago XI album, which should be released in August. "Indianapolis is in effect our guinea pig," said James Pankilow, group singer and trombone player. "We'll be trying our new stage and new material all on the same night. We'll have to be on our toes. No more habits to lay back on.

"We're using very sophisticated lighting effects -- probably three times the lighting we had last summer (when the group played at the State Fair). You'll definitely notice a brilliance and luster in the lighting and in the special effects our fans haven't seen us use before." Tickets at $6, $7 and $8 will be on sale at the arena box office up until showtime.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward