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CONCERT DATE: July 31, 1976 (8:30 pm) Hampton Roads, VA.

Elvis - for the Way He Was
By Cheryl Tucker
Newport News Times Herald
August 1, 1976

Let me put one thing straight at the very beginning. I have never seen Elvis Presley in concert before. But I was curious to see what it was that can turn a grown woman into something resembling a vocal mass of jelly. After seeing his concert Sunday afternoon at Hampton Coliseum, I am still trying to figure it out. Screams greeted Elvis when he strode onstage to the grandiose strains of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (Theme to 2001), and his fans screamed even more loudly when the king of rock and roll deigned to perform a very few of his famous gyrations.

But, judging from his performance, they are screaming for what he was, what he symbolizes, rather than what he is or how he sings now. He performed his songs well Sunday, although he didn't do very many. But there was no soul, no driving power behind his voice, nothing that could bring me even to contemplate a fit of frenzy. Maybe it's the years that have taken the toll, or maybe it's our expectations are set too high. Can Elvis realistically be expected to put a lot of energy into his act when he's a 41-year-old king? When he's well established in his profession? When he's not hungry anymore? Maybe that's the secret. Maybe you have to be hungry.

"Ladies and gentlemen...if you'll look at the man up on that stage...he's showing you the Elvis super souvenirs that are available in the lobby and from the men walking up and down the aisles. You can get a giant photo album full of color pictures of Elvis for only $3. And for only $5 you can get a six-inch Elvis pin with a built-in easel, so you can wear it or stand it up."

He wore a light blue suit with multicolored sequins and a white shirt. His gut hung over his belt a little, and his double chin gave his face a bloated look. But somehow he still can drive women crazy, turning them into something akin to the Bacchae, those women of ancient Greece who worshipped Bacchus, the god of wine. In their sexual-religious passion, they often would tear their sacrificial victim apart with their bare hands. It was fortunate Elvis had ample squad of bodyguards. It would have been a little messy if any of those women had gotten their hands on him. Have you ever seen what happens when you throw a piece of bread into a pond?

A swarm of fish converges on it, fighting each other for the food. That image came to mind whenever Elvis tossed a scarf, that briefly had rested around his neck, to the pleading, screaming women at his feet. Somehow there is something grotesque about women clawing each other for the chance to get a slightly damp piece of cloth.

Following Elvis through the entire act was a flunky whose sole purpose in life seems to be to hand the star a drink between each song and make sure that there is a scarf ever draped around The Neck. As quickly as one is placed there, Elvis removes it and flings it at the mass of arms waving up at him. To the one who is closest, who can shove hardest or jump highest goes the relic that undoubtedly will find its way to a well-tended shrine. He wore a light blue suit with multicolored sequins and a white shirt. His gut hung over his belt a little, and his double chin gave his face a bloated look. But somehow he still can drive women crazy, turning them into something akin to the Bacchae, those women of ancient Greece who worshipped Bacchus, the god of wine.

In their sexual-religious passion, they often would tear their sacrificial victim apart with their bare hands. It was fortunate Elvis had ample squad of bodyguards. It would have been a little messy if any of those women had gotten their hands on him. Have you ever seen what happens when you throw a piece of bread into a pond? A swarm of fish converges on it, fighting each other for the food. That image came to mind whenever Elvis tossed a scarf, that briefly had rested around his neck, to the pleading, screaming women at his feet. Somehow there is something grotesque about women clawing each other for the chance to get a slightly damp piece of cloth.

Following Elvis through the entire act was a flunky whose sole purpose in life seems to be to hand the star a drink between each song and make sure that there is a scarf ever draped around The Neck. As quickly as one is placed there, Elvis removes it and flings it at the mass of arms waving up at him. To the one who is closest, who can shove hardest or jump highest goes the relic that undoubtedly will find its way to a well-tended shrine.

"And here, in beautiful color, is the Elvis poster for only $1. Autographed by Elvis, it comes in three different sizes and poses. It's suitable for framing. And for only $5 you can get the traditional Elvis scarf - blue and white. Every lady should have one to wave when Elvis comes onstage. Be sure to get your Elvis super souvenir."

What did he sing? Somehow that seems rather secondary to the whole thing but here goes: C.C. Rider, If You Love Me Let Me Know, You Gave Me a Mountain, I'm All Shook Up, Fever, Return to Sender, Early Morning Rain, Johnny B. Goode, Hound Dog, I Can't Help Falling in Love with You and, in tribute to the Bicentennial year, a stirring versions of America the Beautiful. More noticeable were the songs he didn't sing. What about Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes and Love Me Tender? What about the old songs, the ones they came to hear? The ones that bring back memories of the way he moved, the way he made their parents nervous, the reason Ed Sullivan could show him only from the waist up.

Marty Tanner and Cathy Horton wanted to see a really great show. They had a right to. The concert was costing them $125 each. At the beginning of Saturday night's show, they were arrested for trespassing. They had been trying to get a picture of Elvis. They were back again Sunday after spending several hours in Hampton jail, being fingerprinted, paying $100 fine each, getting a police record that always will be with them. "We just wanted a picture. There were a lot of people up there, but we were the only ones they arrested," says Marty. "We didn't even get near the stage. I hope he's good, because after this, I'm never coming back."

Marty and Cathy left halfway through the concert. How much longer will the Elvis legend go on? Will they still love him when he's 64? When he's even fatter and slower? Maybe the legend will die only when he does. But as I was leaving the coliseum, a little girl, no older than 10, with eyes open wide and awe in her voice announced to no one in particular "I almost touched him, I almost touched him."

Courtesy of Scott Hayward