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Concerts Reviewed - 1974

COLLEGE PARK September 28, 1974
by Rick Bayne

THE (US) autumn of 1974 was a strange time for Elvis and for the first time his health problems were exposed on stage. At the final date of his Vegas season he used the stage as a soapbox to launch a tirade on those spreading rumors that he was "strung out" on drugs. When he hit the road for his September/October tour those rumors were given credence with some bizarre on-stage ramblings.

Anyone looking for proof that his drug denials were hollow need look no further than his September 28, College Park concert, possibly the nadir of that period for a clearly troubled singer. As out-of-focus as in the worst concert from 1977 - but with the added problem of an acid tongue surfacing in his `humor' - this long 90-minute concert proves the old adage that big is not necessarily better.

The opening track C.C. Rider is often a good indication of what's to come and his slurred, lazy delivery sets the tone for the performance. The guitar-thrusting finale is sloppy and when Elvis talks it's obvious why. Instead of venturing directly into his `well, well...' routine, he launches into a speech about how fantastic the people, persons, audience, whatever really is. He even calls on the "voice of the Lord" (JD) to echo his sentiment. We also get to know that Elvis really loves "show b'ness" and he's not like other performers who breeze through their shows. It would be easy to dispute such a statement on a night like this. After getting lost in the `well, well' segment he redeems himself with a "louder" bit before launching into a typical I Got A Woman/Amen. J.D. is asked to repeat his dive-bomber routine, Elvis growls about the feedback and gives an indication of his off-color humor by threatening to take back Felton Jarvis's kidney (Elvis had paid for a transplant operation for his record producer/sound man).

After again losing his place, the medley finally draws to a belated close. The good evening speech is more lucid, with Elvis promising one hour, 20 minutes of old, new and middle-aged hits but at the same time advising the crowd not to "throw-up" requests. Love Me follows and he is typically distracted. If You Love Me is adequate but damaged by some tired vocalising. Elvis then introduces his new single It's Midnight, one of the few `new' songs for the performance. Although he allows the mood to be interrupted with an "I'll be back there in a minute, baby" it's the best performance so far. Still, the line "where is all my self-control?'" seems very appropriate.

Things start to pick up with a straight-ahead version of Big Boss Man (although Duke Bardwell's bass playing intrudes too much) but chaos returns with a loose Fever ("hope I don't fall off the stage" he mutters during its introduction). Next the rambling returns, with the anger this time directed at a newspaper reviewer who apparently gave the previous night's show a good critique but dared mention the kingly paunch. Elvis explains away his extra pounds as a bullet-proof vest but labels the writer a "son-of-a-bitch" to the crowd's amusement. The down-time continues as he accepts a gift and tries to communicate with the audience. Reacting to either more requests or maybe someone telling him to get on with the show, Elvis responds: "If you don't leave me alone I'm going to walk off stage and go back to my dressing room and play with my foot."

He then brags for no apparent reason about his latest black belt promotion before accepting another gift. Five minutes later we move into a messy Love Me Tender, followed by Hound Dog. The introductions follow with joking insults to the back-up singers and a "paunch - hell" comment (it was obviously playing on his mind). Another taste of his inappropriate humor comes after he refers to the Sweet Inspirations as the "crew cuts" and then adds "don't get no black power jazz on me". He has trouble communicating a change of tempo to Glenn D. Hardin, has trouble with Duke's piece and doesn't know where he is when it comes to introducing the pick-up members of the orchestra.

A decent enough Blue Christmas follows before oldies All Shook Up, Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel and Trying To Get To You, which is okay before a disastrous ending. While he gives his voice a break, Voice do a decent Killing Me Softly before the Stamps attempt When It's My Time. Bill Baize's screaming at that song's conclusion at least proves Elvis isn't the worst singer on stage that night - and then he repeats it. Terrible. Heartbreak Hotel starts okay but he forgets the words, Let Me Be There is relatively energetic but again too loose and Elvis's voice cracks on "oh my God" in How Great Thou Art. Next is Hawaiian Wedding Song, introduced as one of the most requested songs from Blue Hawaii, and after aiding his gator he performs a sensitive, straight version. He next informs the audience he's been on stage for an hour and 20 minutes, before negotiating requests for Blue Suede Shoes or If You Talk In Your Sleep. Sadly, Blue Suede is chosen. It's an adequate version but a contemporary song like Talk In Your Sleep would have aided the show. "For an audience like this I will sing my can off, Jack, in fact I have," Elvis says next. But he's not finished yet.

Like his earlier rantings from the stage in Vegas, Elvis turns on the movie magazines and rumors, dismissing them as trash. Telling the audience he's a Federal narcotics agent and an 8th degree black belt. I don't drink booze or take this and that. Don't say boo to me when I tell you that because I'm telling you the God's truth." Elvis implores the audience to take his word or that of the movie magazines. Tonight it would be hard to argue with the written word. There's more talk about planes, on-stage equipment, and grandmothers being dried up like prunes before his swan song, Can't Help Falling In Love. After this show, Elvis seemingly got his act together and performed some quality shows in the second part of the tour. But he was kept away from the touring circuit for another six months.

Rick Bayne

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