KING ELVIS RULES IN VEGAS AGAIN
NEW SONGS AND OLD IN HIS ACTThe King returned to his throne at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, last week. And there was no doubting he is Monarch! He was everything you could expect and more!
From the first pulsating moment he walked on stage, smiling that confident grin and touching each person with those piercing blue eyes, he had 2,000 people in the palm of his hand. Twice during his performance the crowd leaped up to give him standing ovations.
Elvis put on everything he had! He was dressed in a one-piece jumpsuit, well-fitted to his body with a low-slung, sexy, beaded-tussled belt knitted tightly to his hips. Even the older women in the crowd were sighing and moaning as the tassel swayed back and forth across his body.
Elvis’ repertoire for his second very live-appearances cabaret season in nine years was well-chosen and showed him off to the very best advantage. He repeated several of the songs from his last engagement, obviously the crowd-favourites from that month-long stand, and added new songs, mainly drawn from the South with its gutsy sounds.
It was a star-studded opening night. I saw Dean Martin and his hew girl friend Gail Renshaw; MGM’s President Jim Aubrey; Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and Juliet Prowse. Elvis’ wife Priscilla and his father Vernon Presley sat ringside for his show.
Once on stage, Elvis didn’t waste a minute in rousing the audience as he opened with a rollicking “All Shook Up.” After each song Elvis was forced to wait as the crowd just couldn’t stop clapping.
“This was my first record, ladies and gentlemen,” he introduced politely, going into “That’s Alright Mama.” With a little imagination you could envisage him on a battered wooden stage in a shiny gold lame suit, with thousands of screaming pony-tailed teenagers at his feet. The combination of “good ole rock and roll” and a man who is so very much today is staggering. If anyone could bridge a generation gap, it would surely be this man. Every age was represented at the International that night and each was enjoying Elvis in their own way!
Opening night, however, Elvis was plagued by every singer’s nemesis – Vegas throat! Therefore he kept his between-song patter to a minimum.
“My mouth’s a little dry,” he said after his first number,” and I’m a little bit shakey … Welcome to the International. This is my second live appearance in nine years. I’d like to do some songs for you that were recorded by other people.”
Here Elvis teased in his very own style, starting “Everybody … Loves Somebody …” and Dean Martin laughed louder than anyone! His next number was “Proud Mary.” Played and sung funky. Elvis is at his best singing songs of the South. It’s like hearing a song for the very first time when the King sings it!”
His outstanding backing group is the same as last time (except for a new drummer), led by lead guitarist James Burton. The Sweet Inspirations and the Imperials provide expert vocal support again, too.
“Excuse me while I get some water. It’s kinda dry out here in Las Vegas …” this is the record I just had out. I hope you like it.”
Then he went into “Don’t Cry Daddy,” his current chart-topper here, with a beautiful vocal harmony provided by Charlie Hodge.
“I’d like to do a couple of songs I recorded about 1929,” Elvis gagged, before going into an exciting medley of “Teddy Bear,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Long Tall Sally.”
Although his introductions were brief, each was touched with a bit of humour as only Elvis can put it across. After singing “Let It Be Me,” Elvis bent down to one of the front tables and asked for a glass of water, as about 13 glasses were shot towards him. He reached for one and took a sip, then muttered: “If I’d get my hair out of my eyes, I could probably see better … but I can’t blow my image …. Although it’s been blown before … image … image!”
Next he rocked into a soulful “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and then a new one – Joe South’s “Walk A Mile In My Shoes.” From there he went directly and smoothly to “In The Ghetto.”
The transitions Elvis makes in his shows, from fast, rousing numbers, to softer ballads, keep the audience alert every minute. From the ballad “In The Ghetto,” Elvis switched to a comical introduction that the crowd seemed eager to hear. I’m sure many were disappointed that he didn’t talk even more, for when he does, you get the feeling you are getting to know the man so much more intimately!
“Elvis In Memphis (if you’ve heard his last live album you know how he pronounces Memphis) … Elvis In Memphis (he named the album title again) … Here’s a song from that album I’d like to do right now … (pause) … but I’ve forgotten the words to it! … Excuse me for a second while I get some water.”
Then he turned and walked back to his friend Charlie to get a glass of water and mumble to himself (so we could all hear) “Don’t turn your back to the audience, Elvis!” and continued. “This song is called ‘True Love Travels On A Gravel Road’ and I hope you like it.”
The music began and just as Elvis was about to begin we heard from him: “Hold It! Hold It!” … Conference … excuse me for just one second.” He walked back to Charlie. “Oh yeah! Now I’ve got it!” and he began again, this time singing the right words.
This happened a couple of times during the show, but each time Elvis stopped the orchestra and began again, as if he had to make it perfect. And it was. My impression was that the audience got a real-kick out of Elvis whenever he made a mistake, too.
It just showed us that he is human, however hard that is to believe when you’re listening to him or seeing him in person!
He sang “Memories,” and as he did last time during the instrumental breaks he’d walk around the stage and kiss some of the lucky girls down front. Then “Sweet Caroline,” bumping and grinding to the beat, just the way we wanted him to.
“Let’s go down to Louisiana,” he said in his Southern accent, and we heard Elvis’ version of “Polk Salad Annie.”
“I’ve got a new record that just came out … I hope you like it … it’s called … What is it called? … Oh, it’s called ‘Kentucky Rain’.”
The new song is beautiful and falls right into the line of first-rate singles that Elvis has been turning out one after another. Following “Kentucky Rain,” he did “Suspicious Minds,” and ended the show as before with “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
As Elvis stands with arms up-stretched and head bowed in thanks, the curtain falls. You are swept up with the excitement of the crowd which is at its peak.
In this moment of exhilaration, there comes a feeling of pain, too, for you know it’s over. And then you have to rely on your mind to recall again the thrill you have just experienced.
I think the key to Elvis’ over-whelming magnetism is not so much his wiggling hips, his slender body generating so much sex appeal, or even his beautiful and powerful voice as much as his whole aura of simplicity and sincerity.
He doesn’t clutter his act with useless prepared comic material, but finds humour which is captivating.
And with every song he gives the audience exactly what they have come for - chance to see and experience a living legend. In the end his appreciation is real and you can feel it from the last seat in the last row of the Showroom.
By Ann Moses, New Musical Express, February 1970