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CONCERT DATE: June 28, 1976 (8:30 pm). Philadelphia, PA

King Elvis Still Reigns Supreme
by Matt Damsker
Philadelphia Bulletin
June 27, 1976

"YOU'RE NEVER too old to rock'n'roll, if you're too young to die" encourages a currently popular ballad, and more than a few aging rock stars would have to agree. For example: Elvis Presley, at 41 rock's Grandest Old Man and still very much "The King" to millions of subjects worldwide. On tour again, Elvis continues to pack the nation's large arenas with fans of all ages, as evidenced by the sold out status of his appearance tomorrow night at the Spectrum.

Like all truly legendary entertainers, Presley never seems in danger of oversaying his audiences' idolatrous welcome, despite the ravages of time. Since returning to a relatively active performing life in 1971 - after more than a decade of near total inaccessibility - Elvis has experienced a number of well-chronicled ups and downs, onstage and off. His recent performances have alternately awed and exasperated critics, although the fans never seem less than wowed , while his personal life has been turbulent - a marital split after years of apparently model domesticity, and, more significantly numerous and often vague reports of ill health.

His spokesmen - tight-lipped and hard to reach at the Hollywood offices of his manager, the iron-handed Col. Tom Parker - insist that Elvis is fine, period. Still, the past year has produced a flurry of items concerning his various hospitalizations: for "an intestinal blockage from a twisted lower colon"; for "an enlarged colon that interfered with his breathing;" for "flu," "fatigue" and "exhaustion."

However serious those problems, it seems that Elvis is now in reasonably good, middle-aged shape. He may be somewhat overweight, but how many astronomically wealthy, good-lifting 40 years olds can be expected to maintain the trim lines of youth? If anything, Elvis may be suffering most from an understandable boredom

"IT WAS embarrassing to watch the man who was once such an entertainment giant "walk" through his numbers, not even trying for the high notes... not caring enough to complete many of the songs he started - and forgetting the words to others." reported Hollywood columnist Marilyn Beck following one of the Presley's most recent performances - this past April - at L.A.'s Long Beach Arena.

"Not that the fans who jammed the arena seemed to mind," continued Beck. "they screamed and near swooned each time he started a song or attempted to twitch his hips, even though Elvis, looking listless and overweight in loose-fitting trousers and vest, bore small reminder of King Elvis of yore."

Indeed, a baggy-pants Elvis is a difficult image to accept, particularly since it was Elvis himself who set the standard - so unforgettably - for a generation of pelvis-grinding, grapeskin-tailored rock'n'rollers. Even so, Elvis has long had the advantage of seeming not only larger than life - with or without a few extra pounds - but larger than his own human frailties.

"REALLY Mr. Presley imitates nobody," wrote New York Times critic John Rockwell of Elvis' July 1975, appearance at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum. "The youthful sexuality has long since gone; it couldn't really be otherwise. But in its place there is a wonderfully relaxed, ironic affection that can be almost as nice." Of course, Rockwell observed, "He was still fat - fatter than ever, a blown-up cartoon of his spare nineteen fifties toughness. But he wasn't lazy, and he most certainly wasn't ineffectual."

Obviously, it's one thing to be an in-shape, fully enganged performing artist, but quite another to be a living legend. No matter how checkered Presley's present may be, the phenomenal glory of his past continues to radiate considerable magnetism.

HE WAS the first, the greatest rock vocalist ever," asserts Philadelphian Paul Lichter, a fulltime Elvis fanatic who heads the "Elvis Unique Record Club" (which boasts the world's largest stock of original Presley recordings and memorabilia) and edits "The Memphis Flash," the leading Presley "fanzine".

"I've spoken to a number of rock stars and they agree that most rock vocal modulations come from Elvis. Besides, he's given generations enjoyment. Right now, I'd say his audience ranges in age from 8 to 80. Probably the biggest problem he has is trying to appeal to so many different groups with his music."

Courtesy of Jeannine Crerand