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Concerts Reviewed - 1977



May 28, 1977. Philadelphia, PA.
by Jim

Saturday night, May 28th, 1977, a night I will always remember. This was the final time I would see Elvis in concert. To be sure, when I was going to the show I didn't know that. I had seen Elvis a number of times throughout the 70's in different cities. But this would be the final time. Like previous shows, all day I was counting down the minutes when I would make the 40 minute drive from my house to South Philadelphia where the Spectrum was located. It was a typical late May day weather-wise. Sunny, warm and humid. But the weather and nothing else mattered. I was going to see Elvis again! I always got excited about yet another concert. The crowd was like many of the others. A good mixture of ages represented, with many saying this was their first time seeing Elvis. They were in for a treat they would never forget. The stage was once again set up on the East side of the Spectrum. The Spectrum has three levels to it and all the seats were once again filled. There were a number of seats on the first level which were immediately behind the stage which were not sold, I was told, because the view was badly obstructed. Nevertheless, the second and third level seats behind the stage were filled.

Like many of the other shows, the show began with the Joe Guercio Orchestra playing a song. It was a really good opening number, although I can't remember the name of the song! I do recall that we showed our appreciation with loud applause.

Next came J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. They sang two or three Gospel numbers and we were really into the music. For a minute I thought I could have been at a revival rather than a concert! J.D.Sumner was featured on a solo spot and gosh did that man have a deep voice! He had the speakers shaking!

Following the Stamps it was time for the fabulous Sweet Inspirations. They were wonderful as always. Their set consisted of three songs, each thrilling the crowd. If I remember correctly they did, "Sweet Inspiration," If You Leave Me Now," and one other.

Next came comedian Jackie Kahane. Jackie's material was very familiar to me by now in 1977. But, you know, I still liked him and he received nice applause from the sell out crowd. After all, the crowd was there to see Elvis! I always felt bad for Jackie. How does one warm-up a crowd for Elvis? He did his best. Following Jackie, came the announcement that it was time for the intermission. A lot of groans from the crowd on this night.

It was a longer intermission than usual on this night. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the lights began to flash, and the announcement to return to our seats as the second half of the show was about to begin. Cheers filled the Spectrum and people quickly made their way to their seats. We could see the TCB band, the backup singers and orchestra take their positions of the stage, located at the eastern end of the building. Without any further announcement, suddenly the lights went out! Screams now filled the air. I sat nervously, fidgeting back and forth in my chair. My mother sat smiling and my sister was shaking simply saying over and over, "Oh, come on, come on! Where is he?"

Then the orchestra and band began playing the notes to 2001:A Space Odyssey. Scream filled the air. Soon the back up singers join in with their, "AAAHHHHH's." Finally, as the anticipation had grown to a point of explosion, the final, "AAAAHHHHH, AAAHHHH, AAAAHHHHH!" Ronnie Tutt begins pounding the drums and spotlights begin circling all around the building. The band picks up the beat, the horns from the orchestra begin blasting. Then the spotlight hit's the back of the stage on the right as you were looking at it. After a few more seconds, there he was! YES, it was Elvis climbing the stairs and making his way on to the stage. As he reached the top of the steps and stepped onto the stage itself, the first thing Elvis did, was turn and acknowledge the crowd in the second and third levels of the building behind the stage. I thought that was so cool and considerate! As you would imagine, flashbulbs were popping everywhere making it seem like Elvis was coming on to a strobe light. Elvis walked out past John Wilkerson, Kathy Westmoreland, Sherill Neilson, The Sweet Inspirations, and Stamps. He walked from side-to-side greeting all of us in the audience. On this night, Elvis was wearing the Sundial jumpsuit. I had never seen any pictures of this jumpsuit before this particular concert. IT looked GREAT on him. He looked so royal, almost like a king before his subjects! The suit reflected the bright spotlights. He was obviously dealing with some weight issues, but no one seemed to care. It was Elvis! The standing ovation for him that night was long and loud. Elvis picked up some stuffed animals, a couple of roses which had been tossed onto the stage and gave them to Charlie Hodge who placed Elvis' guitar on him. As he began his opening number I was still standing with many others around me!

Elvis walked up to the microphone, jerking it back and saying, "Oh, See, See See Rider." And thus began a really good version of this Elvis favorite, "See See Rider." We all cheered as Elvis shouted out the opening lines of the song. After the first line Elvis yells to the band "Slow it down." The band was really cooking, but I guess it was faster than Elvis wanted to sing it that night. Much of the cheering continued till the end of the song, increasing as Elvis did some fancy leg movements on the "One, two, three, four" ending on the song. Elvis thanked us and then said, "I'd like to apologize for being a little late, but we got lost in the parking lot." We responded by laughing with him. A few girls down front could be heard saying, "Aahhhh." Elvis quickly pointed to them adding, I'm not kidding you." He paused, then added, "I'm not kidding you but I'm lying to you." Again, we all laughed.

Then it was the "Well, well, well" routine, saying at the end, "well, that's it." He then went into a really good version of "I Got a Woman." He did the "Amen" a few times asking us to join in the singing with him. As I remember that I still get goose bumps: Elvis was asking us to sing with him! To be sure I was with nearly 19,000 other people, but I WAS singing with Elvis! Elvis stopped after "Amen" and did a little playing with us (mostly the women I guess) in the audience. He was shaking his legs and doing all kinds of gyrations which, of course, had many in the audience screaming and had flash bulbs popping. After a time of this Elvis stops in a weird position and says, "That's it, I just broke!" We all laughed. It's like Elvis was just having fun with us. He then asked for J.D. Sumner to "help me out" and did his deep voice thing. When he finished the first time Elvis said that J.D. "told me he's the world's lowest bass singer." Elvis then had Sumner do it a second time. It really sounded cool! After the "I Got a Woman" reprise, Elvis gave a sort of long ending by thrusting his guitar in the air to the beats of drummer Ronnie Tutt. Then, without looking, he tossed the guitar over his shoulder to a faithfully waiting Charlie Hodge who caught it! Awesome!

Elvis then became interested in a women down front who asked for "Love Me Tender." He gave a kiss and a scarf and he received a picture from her. He then continued to interact with the crowd asking questions like, "What ya got on, do you mind," and then kissed them. After what seemed like several minutes he looks up and "Ah, Oh good evening ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to say that it's a pleasure to back here..." He then said he would try to do as many songs as he could. As he spoke James Burton kept strumming his guitar reminding Elvis of the first note of the next song. Elvis got us all laughing at one point. He was saying that he would try to do as many songs as he could when James hit a note on his guitar and Elvis immediately said, "like that song right there!" We all laughed and even his band members were laughing at that one.

Next was the '50s classic, "Love Me." While it is hard to improve on the perfection of the original, the treatment this night was good. Elvis gave away a number of scarves, many to the audience which was seated behind the stage. As he received the applause following this fan-friendly song, Elvis told us we were a "good audience." I always enjoyed hearing that!

Next, Elvis offered the first major surprise of the evening. He said, "This next song is," and then stopped. Turning around to James Burton, he said, "I'll tell you what, let's do "My Way." A roar from us went up upon hearing that! Elvis said that he didn't know the words so he would "fake it," and he laughed as he said it. I laughed as did those sitting around me. Elvis did hold the sheet with the words for the first verse, although he hardly looked at them. I never understood why he felt the need to use the words. Anyway, he delivered an awesome version with a powerful ending. A bunch of us were on our feet as Elvis sang the words, "the record shows I took the blows..." Then when he finished, from my vantage point on the floor, it seemed as if everyone was on their feet! He really seemed to sing this one from the heart. It was unbelievable to hear him do this one live!

Next was a song from Elvis' "third movie called Jailhouse Rock." It was a fast version, although not quite as fast as I heard him do it in 1976, yet Elvis offered some leg, hip, and shoulder movement which we enjoyed. Not as much movement as I had seem him do in other concerts. Nonetheless, a version good version.

As the applause began to settle Elvis then simply said, "Mountain." And immediately the band began "You Gave Me a Mountain." I never, never, never got tired of hearing Elvis sing this one. On this night he stood nearly center stage for the most part and delivered a great version. As Elvis delivered the second verse he seemed to be staring and using his free hand to further emphasize those powerful words. Gosh, were we all drawn in by this and for the most part, everyone was quiet. In fact, Elvis had us really focused totally on him throughout this song. As he finished this he received loud applause once again. This was, in my opinion, one of the best live performances of this song I heard Elvis do. He then saw a little girl down front whom he greeted and gave a scarf to. She seemed so scared, but Elvis was so gentle, so paternal. A really neat moment!

Next was a real treat for me. Elvis said, "in 1960 we did a song called It's Now or Never. And it was taken from the song O Sole Mio..." He asked Sherrill Neilson to sing the Italian part and then he would do the "It's Now or Never" part. He then stood in front of Neilson as he sang "O Sole Mio." Elvis was being a little playful trying to make Neilson laugh. Neilson didn't miss a note. The interaction was fun to watch. Elvis and the band did a great version of "It's Now or Never" much to our delight. Of all the Elvis concerts I attended since 1971, this was the first time I had the chance to hear "It's Now or Never" live! Really great, especially the ending with Elvis pumping his arm and fist in the air!

After the applause settled down Elvis said he would like to do a medley of some of his records, beginning with "Little Sister." Wow! What a neat song and hearing James Burton's guitar on this was special. At the part in the song where Elvis says, "When I dated your big sister," he and the band were terribly out of sync with each other. Elvis says "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! Let's get it." And then all of them started up and finished the song nicely. Elvis looked at some of us in the audience, (Yes, in the direction I was sitting!), and kind of shrugged his shoulders and smiled as the song began again. None of us minded, believe me.

Then it was quickly into the "Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel" medley. This was a nice version, Elvis seemed very preoccupied with handing out scarves on this one yet as I remember he sung all of the words. Still nice to hear, though.

As the applause stopped Elvis said, "We did a song in an album a couple of years ago called, "And I Love You So." Then he echoed himself saying, "And I Love You... (pause) SO!" Many of us chuckled! This was the second surprise for me tonight. This song has always been one of my all time favorite songs by Elvis. He really seemed to sing this from the heart. No messing around just one of the best performances I've seen by Elvis on a song. I wish you all could have heard it this night. Many of the women sitting around me, including my sister, had tears in their eyes. We responded loudly after this one.

As the applause began to settle down Elvis said, "You've heard us do it before, but we're going to do it again, Polk Salad Annie." I remember screaming out "Yeah" on this one. This was a radically different arrangement from the 1971 version I heard, and somewhat different from the 1974 version I heard him do. When the horns from the orchestra kick-in during the intro of the song, it gives you goose bumps! This was a really neat version and we were really into it. Near the end Elvis did a few movements and at one point as I recall he tried to squat down and seemed to be wincing in pain. At first, I really didn't think anything of it because Elvis made all sorts of faces while on stage. But this seemed to be a genuine grimace of pain. If he was having pain this night, he didn't let it slow him down as he really seemed to be working for us. At the end of this we gave a loud ovation.

Next came the introductions of his band members. He introduced everyone without any real fooling around. One comment which continues to stick out in my mind is when Elvis introduced Larry Strickland. As I remember Elvis said "Larry sings the bass notes when I can't hit them." He may have been telling the truth, but I have always wondered why Elvis felt the need to tell us? Elvis shared the spotlight with members of the TCB band as each was introduced. Personally, I always enjoyed the way Elvis did the introductions in '76 and '77. While we were there to see Elvis, yet I liked those few minutes of interaction between him and the band members. Honestly, it was probably better in person. After introducing John Wilkerson, Elvis did a nice version of "Early Morning Rain." As I recall it was longer than when I heard him sing it in 1976. Next was James Burton and a very quick version of "What'd I Say." Elvis didn't sing all of the words to this one. He then "asked" James to "play the guitar in back of his head." James responded with a really neat "Johnny B. Goode," and Elvis singing softly. Next came a solo for Ronnie Tutt on drums (a great performance), Jerry Scheff on bass guitar (Jerry is so good on bass, he played a song which Elvis requested which I cannot remember except that it was pretty fast), Tony Brown on piano (who is a very good piano player and at the end of his solo Elvis said, "mean little player"), and Bobby Ogden on the electric clavinet. Next came "My friend, Charlie Hodge," and Joe Guercio and the orchestra. The orchestra played "Hail, Hail Rock 'n' Roll" and Elvis sang to some of it, especially the end.

Elvis then said, "One of our latest records is called Hurt," and did a really good job. He held the last "huuuuuuuurrrrrrrrtttttttttttt" really long, and even had breath left to connect it to the "you." Many of us were on our feet as Elvis was finishing this one. He seemed please by our response. He thanked us a number of times even saying at one point, "Thank you, you're a fantastic audience." I heard him sing this one three times in concert and never got tired of it. A great song always done well by Elvis!

As the applause died down Elvis invited J.D.Sumer and the Stamps to sing "Walk That Lonesome Road." Elvis told us that J.D. had actually written the song himself! We reacted very strongly when the Stamps had finished. The harmony in the group was amazing, especially near the end of the song when J.D. "bottoms-out" and the tenor is "going through the roof" vocally. What a performance!

Then, Elvis literally burst into "Hound Dog." This was a fairly energetic version of the song. Again, it didn't match the 1956 classic, but we still enjoyed it just the same. Elvis tossed out some more scarves on this one. It was also a treat to see Elvis putting some energy into this one. He extended the ending by shaking legs, arms, and shoulders while looking at the back-up singers. Many of the fans were screaming and carrying on as Elvis finished this one really strong. As he finished the song, I was close enough to the stage to see that Elvis really seemed to look tired.

Then came one of the strangest moments of any Elvis concert I attended. Elvis said, "I've been on stage for about an hour and ten minutes and you've been good to us and if you want us to come back just let us know and we'll be glad to come back up here." Obviously we all cheered loudly. He quickly added, "And another thing, Be careful what you read and what you hear. I'm in good health, and really love performing." We all cheered wildly, many of us, me among them, were on our feet at this point. I didn't think of it that night, but years later I began thinking if indeed the book written by his bodyguards was weighing on Elvis' mind. Who knows.

As the applause was still going I heard Elvis say, "Take it home" and immediately the piano began "Can't Help Falling in Love." By 1977, everyone knew that the concert was coming to a close. Elvis tossed some more scarves to the crowd, and as the song ended Elvis gave a long and loud ending. We were on our feet cheering yet another great concert! Elvis walked back and forth on the stage acknowledging all of us. He seemed hesitant to go. He seemed to be enjoying the ovation. Finally, he took off the final scarf, bent down, handed to a lucky woman in the front, lifted his arms and first fingers high in the air, and turned to walk toward the back of the stage. He was met by Joe Esposito and a few others and then, before we knew it, "Elvis has left the building. Thank you and good night," sounded throughout the Spectrum. Like all of the shows I attended, I sat for a while letting the rest of the crowd exit just soaking in another great concert by Elvis. As I walked out of the Philadelphia Spectrum that night I was looking forward to the "promise" Elvis made about returning in 1978. Little did I know that this would be the final time I would see him alive in concert.

Jim



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