Category Archives: CONCERTS

Scotty Moore Returns to Live Performances After 24 Year Absence

When Scotty Moore returned to Nashville after appearing in the ‘68 Comeback Special, he never dreamed it was the last time he would perform on stage for 24 years.

Elvis and Scotty Moore in the famous “Pit Session” of the the ’68 Comeback Special

 

In fact, Elvis had talked about wanting to do a tour in Europe.  Now that he was essentially finished with movies, Elvis was energized to perform live again, and Scotty was excited about getting back on stage with him.  Scotty went home to Nashville and waited for a call from Elvis to say the European tour was on.

Of course, Col. Parker put a quick end to such an idea.  He was an illegal alien from Holland and knew he couldn’t get a US passport, so he could never accompany Elvis to Europe.  And, Parker was not about to allow Elvis to tour over there without the constant presence of his manager.  So the tour idea died.

Scotty went on with his life as a studio sound engineer, work that kept him associated with the music business, without ever performing.  Years later he owned a cassette duplicating company, and followed that by opening a printing shop that made the label inserts for the tapes.

Scotty’s guitars sat essentially untouched for years.  He actually thought of himself as a ‘former guitar player,’ and was comfortable with it.  He did, however, maintain contact with many dozens of folks in the music business – including Carl Perkins.

Perkins underwent cancer surgery in 1991, but in early 1992 it was in remission.  He felt strong enough to record a new album, and wanted to do it in the old Sun Studios in Memphis.  So, Perkins called Scotty and asked him to join the project.  Scotty resisted, repeatedly saying, “I can’t do this.”  However, Perkins persisted, and soon he, Scotty, DJ Fontana and a group of their studio musician friends completed the recording session that resulted in 706 ReUnion.

Cover of CD Re-release, Not Original Album

 

Two years earlier, Carl Perkins had been the headliner at the first “Good Rockin’ Tonight” concert, presented during Elvis Week by Darwin Lamm, editor and publisher of Elvis International magazine.  Perkins was unable to sing at the second annual concert in 1991 because of his cancer surgery, but he was back as headliner again for “Good Rockin’ Tonight 3” in 1992.

Again, Carl Perkins worked on Scotty to join him – this time, on stage playing the guitar. Scotty agreed, and became part of the most exciting line-up in the history of Elvis Week concerts.  Not only did the fans get to see Elvis’ first guitar player, they also got to see his last one, James Burton.

James Burton and Scotty Moore Rehearsing

 

The Sun Rhythm Section, featuring Sunny Burgess and DJ Fontana opened the show and wowed the audience with an excellent Rockabilly set.  Also on the bill were the Jordanaires who backed Elvis on too many records to count and Ronnie McDowell who sang the songs on several Elvis movies and TV biographies.

From left – James Burton, DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore. Behind Carl perkins on stool — Jardanaires, Ronnie McDowell (in black, white belt), and others.

 

Scotty’s long-time friend, Gail Pollock, summarized the show, “It was electric.”  Especially, when Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore were on stage together.

 

After that, Scotty was hooked.  A week after the concert in Memphis, he went to England to perform with the Jordanaires.  He had been away from performing for 24 years, but at age 61, Scotty Moore was back.  Thousands of fans have seen him at concerts in the years since, and Scotty Moore has brought tears of happiness to more than a few of them.

 

Many thanks to James Roy, webmaster for www.scottymoore.net, and to Gail Pollock for their help in supplying the photographs and historical reference material for this article.

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

The Most Significant Month In Elvis' History

Back in late 2005, I was trying to think of something to write for the upcoming Birthday Tribute Issue of Elvis International magazine. 

I always try to submit something for each issue, and Darwin Lamm, the publisher, likes to do anniversary themes.  So, I checked out what went on with Elvis fifty years earlier in January, 1956.  I quickly realized that lots of important stuff happened, and I had my story idea.  The result was an article with a short title and the longest subtitle I ever used:

 

Fast forward five years, and my buddy, Alan Hanson, posts an article on his Elvis-History-Blog.  Check out his title:

 

Hot dog, I thought.  Alan is pushing a different month.  I couldn’t wait to compare both arguments and see which month won.  In all honesty, it seems like March 1956 probably was the most significant, or pivotal, month in Elvis’ career.  Congratulations, Alan.  However, let’s look at Alan’s summary of life-changing events for Elvis in March and see how those in January 1956 compare.

First Hit on the Charts:  That, of course, was “Heartbreak Hotel,” and it appeared on the Billboard Top 100 pop chart at #68 on March 3. 

 
Elvis’ first national hit was a big event for sure.  But, not so fast.  When was it recorded?  On January 10, Elvis had his first recording session for RCA in Nashville.  Before that, all his recording had been at Sun Records in Memphis, and they were mostly Rockabilly numbers.

 
At RCA’s famed Nashville Studio B, Elvis recorded two songs that had previously been hits for other performers:  “Money Honey” (Drifters) and I Got A Woman” (Ray Charles).  But he also recorded one new song, a slow, bluesy number unlike anything he had done at Sun.  America’s teenagers would ultimately take “Heartbreak Hotel” to #1.

So, which month wins?  I’m sticking with January.  If you are talking about a pivotal event, you can hardly beat changing your record company, your studio, your musical style, and the make-up of your backing band – and getting a #1 hit out of it.  Sure, “Heartbreak Hotel” first reached the charts in March, but that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been recorded in January.

First LP Release:  Alan correctly notes that Elvis Presley was released on March 23, and it quickly rose to the top of the charts where it stayed for ten weeks. 

 

But once again, we can ask which is more important – when it was recorded or when it was released?  Elvis Presley contained twelve songs, but five of them had been recorded at Sun Records in 1955.  The other seven were all recorded in January 1956.  If all twelve had been recorded then, this would be another win for January.  So, we’ll be generous and call this a tie.

There is one interesting side note on the album Elvis Presley.  It did not contain the huge hit “Heartbreak Hotel.”  Apparently, Col. Parker decided the fans would buy the album anyway, and he was certainly correct.  He followed the same plan with the second album, Elvis, which did not contain the huge hits “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Final Appearance on the Louisiana Hayride:  In addition to new firsts for Elvis, March also contained some lasts.  However, so did January.  On January 2, 1956, Elvis performed at a high school auditorium in Charleston, Mississippi.  This was his last show in small venues.  From then on, it was all big theaters and arenas.  Is this more significant than the last of a long run at the Louisiana Hayride?  I think so.

 

However, there was one other important last for Elvis in January.  On January 20 in Fort Worth, he did his last appearance as a supporting act.  From then on, Elvis would always be a headliner.  That’s a pretty pivotal event.

Elvis had seventh billing on May 10, 1955

 

Final Appearance on Stage Show on TV:  Elvis made six appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show on CBS, and the last was on March 24.  How could that be more pivotal than his first appearance on the show on January 28?   Chalk up another win for January.

Elvis’ on His First TV Appearance – Jan 28, 1956

 

Ever Explosive Personal Appearances:  Okay, you have to give it to March on this one, but just barely.  Elvis did plenty of very explosive personal appearances in January, too.  Of course, this trend started before January 1956 and continued well beyond March, so it’s impossible to pick any month as the pivotal one.  Maybe this category should be skipped.

Hollywood Screen Test:  January had nothing similar to this for Elvis, so March gets the nod again.

Elvis Hooks Up With Colonel Parker:  This was a major significant event, and nothing occurred in January of comparable importance.

 

It looks like Alan’s last three points tipped the scales in favor of March 1956 as the most pivotal month in Elvis’ history.  If my focus had been different five years ago, I would have picked the same month as Alan, but, I was searching for a fifty-year anniversary theme to publish in January 2006.  If I had been searching for the Elvis’ most significant month, I would have written about March 1956, but I couldn’t have done any better job presenting the case than Alan Hansen did.  Be sure to check it out.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Dead Elvis, for Bassoon, Clarinet, and Trumpet

Some friends in my neighborhood went to a concert by our city’s symphony orchestra over the weekend, and the husband couldn’t wait to tell me the title of the last piece the orchestra played.  It was “Dead Elvis.”  My friend even produced the concert program to prove it.  He was particularly impressed that the featured soloist, a female bassoon player, was dressed in a white jumpsuit, Elvis wig, and trademark sunglasses.

 “Dead Elvis” Bassoon Soloist

Naturally, I wondered why the composer, Michael Dougherty, would title his composition “Dead Elvis,” so I did a little research.  I never did find anything about his motivation, but ClassicalArchives.com went into great detail on his concept.

For one thing, Mr. Daugherty decided to use the same instrumentation as Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat.  The website explained that these instruments were limited to bassoon, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, one percussionist, violin and double bass.  I guess I should have put them all in the title of this article, but that would have been way too long.  Does anyone know if there is a tradition in classical music of composing works to be performed by a limited group of instruments?  Is there a history of some other composer then trying to also write a piece using just those same instruments?

Who knows?  Who cares, right?  We just want the Elvis story.  Well, the website says “Dead Elvis” is analogous to the story in that famous Stravinsky composition.  In that one, the violinist sells his soul to the devil, while in Dougherty’s work, Elvis sells his soul to record agents, Hollywood, and Las Vegas.  If you ask me, it looks like the bassoonist sells her soul to Yoda from Star Wars.  Doesn’t the jumpsuit collar above look like Yoda ears?


As far as I know, classical music has no lyrics, so how does a symphony convey these messages about someone selling his soul?   Here’s something else the website tells us about the meaning of “Dead Elvis.”  The main musical motive of the piece is the Dies Irae chant, which is used in reference to Elvis’ death.  This medieval chant for the Day of Judgment appears in every movement of the piece.  Are you getting the idea that this composition was not written for the enjoyment of Elvis fans?

Apparently, other symphony orchestras have used the gimmick of their bassoon player dressed up as Elvis for the performance of “Dead Elvis.”  Here is one from the Cleveland Orchestra that rates much higher on the Elvis scale.

If guitar players call it their axe, what would you call this?

 

The website article ends with this, “Over the course of the piece, it is easy to imagine the journey of Elvis from a young man to a burned out Vegas lounge act.”  Well, it is easy for me to imagine I never want to hear “Dead Elvis.”

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Viva Elvis — Sorting Out the On-Line Reviews

At 8 AM on the morning after Viva Elvis had its official opening performance in Las Vegas, I Googled Viva Elvis to see what the entertainment critics had to say about the reworked Cirque du Soleil show.  For two months, there had been many reviews panning the initial trial presentations of Viva Elvis.  I was hoping the bugs had been worked out and the critical review would be positive.

Believe it or not, Google found over 2 million results for my search.  On the first page of these, there was a selection called “News results for Viva Elvis,” and you could click on links to fifty different articles.  As a service to ElvisBlog fans, I checked out every one of them.  Here are my choices for the five most interesting, and they come at the subject from substantially different directions.

Best Look at Costumes and Backstage:

I liked the Lights, Vegas, Action blog of Vegas.com for several reasons.  The text by Kristine McKenzie was organized into four categories: The Cast, The Music, The Costumes, and The Acrobatics.  There is also a video showing snippets of several dance numbers as well looks at some costumes and other backstage stuff.  And finally, there is a gallery of nine still shots plus three more in the body of the article.  Click on the picture below to go to this informative site.

 

Most Glowing Review (and most intellectual):

I was a bit surprised to read the review on the Time magazine website and find it so complimentary.  Time columnist Richard Corliss used his considerable writing talents to praise Viva Elvis using adjectives like spectacular, fantastic and ecstatic.  I love the way he says that Cirque du Soleil shows are to the typical Broadway shows what Avatar is to the 1933 King Kong.  Corliss tends to write in a scholarly manner, and he incorporates a lot of words we regular folks don’t use in everyday conversation.  I’ll share the ones I had to look up, so you won’t have to do it, too.  Éclat (striking effect). Hagiography (worshipful biography), Oeuvre (body of work), Oneiric (relating to dreams), Terpsichore (choreography), Caconical (recognized/accepted), and Chorines (chorus girls).  You will enjoy this review, so click this picture to go to it.

 

Best Videos about Viva Elvis:

CNN.com has a good article by KJ Matthews on its website.  I liked the analysis of how Viva Elvis differs from the Cirque show Love about the Beatles.  There are actually three videos you can check out, and two are good.  “A Look at Viva Elvis” covers the theater, the specially-built stage, set pieces, and backstage activity.  You may have already seen this video on the Elvis Insiders website.  I also liked “Sneak Peak at Viva Elvis,” which has excerpts of Priscilla’s interview on the Larry King Live TV show.  The last video is titled “Elvis, Obama, and Vegas,” but you can skip it unless you want to hear President Obama doing damage control over his recent slam at Las Vegas.  Click on the pink Caddy below to link to this site.

 

Best Description of the Elvis Songs Used in the Show:

There almost 40 Elvis songs used in the show, either in their entirety or in medleys.  The deepest discussion of the music in Viva Elvis is found in the show preview on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.  Columnist Mike Weatherford has been writing regularly about Viva Elvis for two months, and this time he interviews Musical Director Erich van Tourneau.  It is revealing when van Tourneau discusses trying to keep Elvis moving artistically – trying to imagine how Elvis would do his hits today.  There is no video and only two photos.  Click on the one of van Tourneau below to read the interview.

 

Most Detail About What is in Viva Elvis:

As you may know, Cirque du Soleil is Montreal based enterprise, so it is no surprise that the Montreal Gazette would cover Viva Elvis on their website.  Columnist Pat Donnelly has written a lengthy article covering (in sequence) just about every element of the show.  I don’t know how anyone could read his piece without yearning for a trip to Vegas to see Viva Elvis.  Because there are no photos accompanying the article, here’s one I picked for you to click on to go to it.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Opening Night – VIVA ELVIS

(Ed. note)  The official opening of Viva Elvis was on February 19, 2010.  Click here to read the ElvisBlog article covering our favorite on-line reviews of the show.

 

The long awaited trial run opening of Cirque du Soleil's new show VIVA ELVIS is just three days away.  On Friday, December 18, 2000 fans will file into the specially built theater at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to view this wonderful tribute to The King.  Regular ticket prices start at $99 and go up to $175, but during the preview period through the end of January, all are subject to a 25% discount

 A basic room at the Aria is $149 per night.  If you want a spectacular view of CityCenter and the strip, it will cost $199.  If you want to celebrate Elvis' 75th birthday by catching VIVA ELVIS and staying at the Aria on January 8, those room rates jump to $259 and $309.

The Aria website has a link with information on showtimes, prices, and a seating chart.  It looks like the show will happen even on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  The site has this to say about VIVA ELVIS:

Viva ELVIS™ by Cirque du Soleil®, a harmonious fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music, is a tribute to the life and music of Elvis Presley. Nostalgia, modernity and raw emotion provide the backdrop for his immortal voice and the exhilaration and beauty of his music.

Created in the image of The King of Rock 'n' Roll – powerful, sexy, whimsical, truly unique and larger than life – the show highlights an American icon who transformed popular music and whose image embodies the freedom, excitement and turbulence of his era.

Significant moments in his life – intimate, playful and grandiose – blend with the timeless songs that remain as relevant today as when they first hit the top of the charts. Viva ELVIS focuses on the essential humanity of the one superstar whose name will forever be linked with the history of Las Vegas and the entire world of entertainment: Elvis Presley.

 

 

Here are some interesting tid-bits from Reed Johnson's LATimes.com article earlier today.  They are from quotes attributed to Gilles Ste-Croix, Cirque Senior V.P. of Creative Content, and Stephanie Mongeau, Viva Elvis Executive Producer.

Evoking an extraordinary man and his shape-shifting times.

A retro-contemporized tribute that unfolds like a live concert.

None of the show's 75 artists actually will portray or represent Presley on stage.

Those unmistakable purrs and growls will be set to punchy new musical arrangements – like “Black Eyed Peas meet Elvis”

I will be interested to see the reviews of these Black-Eyed-Peas-like arrangements of Elvis' music.  Personally, I'm rather fond of the Scotty Moore and James Burton sounds.  There will surely be a soundtrack CD coming out soon (like just in time for Elvis Week, maybe?), so we can listen to the music even if we can't get to Las Vegas to see the show.

 

It may be a few years until I get out to Las Vegas and see Viva Elvis, but you can be sure that trip will be on my Christmas wish list every year until I do.

 

(C)  2009   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

GUEST COLUMN

 

Your Elvis blogmeister is in the middle of a busy week leading up to Thanksgiving, with two different groups of relatives coming to stay for a few days.  So, it is time to take it easy and share with you an interesting Elvis article posted by my friend Ty at www.TheFilmFrontier.com.  Ty gave me the OK to reprint his article, and in return, he may reprint my Elvis/Star Trek Connections.  Believe it or not, his blog contains both Elvis and Star Trek features, a very interesting combination.

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How Michael Jackson's This Is It could help Elvis fans

 

Posted by Tygrrius, October 15, 2009

 

Many fellow Elvis fans seem to have tired of all of the recent comparisons with Michael Jackson. However, they should take notice of one Michael Jackson project. Filmed just days before Jackson's death in June, This Is It opens in theaters and IMAX later this month.

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Assembled from over a hundred hours of footage, the documentary captures rehearsals and other behind-the-scenes moments for Jackson's concert engagement that ultimately was not to be. If This Is It turns out to be a big success, Jackson's fans can expect to see even more of that footage in sequels or at least in an expanded version on Blu-ray with lots of bonus material.

Why should we Elvis fans care about this? Success for This Is It may well lead someone at Warner Home Video to finally wake up and remember that they are sitting on dozens of hours of valuable behind-the-scenes, rehearsal, and concert footage of another singer known as “The King.”

In 1970, MGM's cameras filmed several rehearsals and concerts for his Elvis Summer Festival engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Released in November of that year, the resulting Elvis: That's The Way It Is documentary was grand and captured Elvis in his prime–but left dozens of hours on the cutting room floor.

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1970 VHS

 

In 1972, MGM's cameras rolled again, this time for Elvis On Tour, capturing rehearsals, behind-the-scenes, and concerts in March and April. The film went on to win a Golden Globe, the only Elvis movie so honored. Again, dozens of hours of footage were filmed but not used.

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Since that time, we've seen a bit of these outtakes. In 1992, Warner released Elvis: The Lost Performances, an incredible one-hour VHS video that included outtakes from both films. In 2001, Warner released a new edit of That's The Way It Is, containing so many outtakes and changes as to actually be a different film than the original. Though both were compelling, these projects were just the tip of the Elvis documentary iceberg.

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 In 2001, Warner released a new edit of That's The Way It Is, containing so many outtakes and changes as to actually be a different film than the original. Though both were compelling, these projects were just the tip of the Elvis documentary iceberg.

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2001 New Edit DVD

Though both versions of That's The Way It Is are available, Elvis On Tour and The Lost Performances never received DVD releases. Maybe we can't go back in time just yet, but Elvis fans should at least be able to experience these historic films and outtakes.

First off, the original versions of Elvis: That's The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour should be fully restored in high definition and digital sound and released on Blu-ray (as well as DVD for those fans who have not yet upgraded), with top-notch bonus features.

Why stop there? Next, Warner should choose whichever That's The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour concerts are most complete (not all were filmed in their entirety) and release them as separate, all-new concert experiences. Don't tag them as Elvis On Tour or That's The Way It Is re-edits, just make completely new projects and leave the original documentaries to stand alone as accounts from the time. Most important, don't over-edit these concerts. Use Elvis' original setlist and flow as much as possible.

Why shouldn't a That's The Way It Is concert be given a full-fledged theatrical release, with an Elvis marketing blitz unheard of since his death? Can you imagine watching one of the That's The Way It Is concerts on an IMAX screen?

Sure, theatrical and IMAX releases are long-stretches, but I think at least Blu-ray releases for Elvis: That's The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour are real possibilities if Michael Jackson's This Is It takes off.

A fan can dream, can't he?

                                                               Tygrrius, Webmaster of the Film Frontier

 

Editor’s Note:  There is one other option for Elvis: That’s The way It Is that might be of interest to fans.  In 2007, Warner Home Video released a Two-Disk Special Edition that contains both the original 1970 release and the 2001 redone version.  As Ty said, they are completely different films.  Gone from the newer version is footage of the fans, venue set-up, and an interview with the editor of Tiger Magazine.  This is replaced by footage of Elvis goofing around at rehearsal, his false starts on songs in concert, his pre-show jitters when he worries about forgetting song lyrics, and the jokes he makes with the band and the audience.  Several songs are dropped in the redone version, including “Sweet Caroline” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and are replaced with others including “Suspicious Minds” and “Polk Salad Annie.”

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2007 DVD with Both Original and New Edit Versions


While the films are not restored in high definition Blu-ray with digital sound, getting both versions for less than $10.00 at Amazon.com is a real bargain.  Of course, like everything put out in recent years, the set includes some never-before-officially-released bonus material.   

CIRQUE du SOLEIL ANNOUNCES VIVA ELVIS NAME SELECTION

 

As speculated here on September 18, Cirque du Soleil has chosen Viva ELVIS as the name of their new Las Vegas show.  The opening date has not yet been announced, and the Cirque website does not yet have any information on ticket prices.  Earlier rumors have pegged the official opening night to be January 8, 2010, Elvis' 75th birthday.  If so, scalpers should have a field day reselling tickets for that birthday bash.  Supposedly, preview shows in late December will be attended by family, friends and other VIPs.

 

Psyched About Cirque

 

Last weekend I watched a 90-minute special on one of the cable channels.  It was called All Together Now, and it was the story behind the creation of Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show called “Love.”  If you don’t already know, “Love” is based on the music of the Beatles.

 

I have seen two Cirque du Soleil shows, one in Vegas and one here at home.  Both were great, so count me in as a fan.  I’ve also been a Beatles fan for 45 years, so the combination of Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles got me psyched when ”Love” was announced a few years ago.”  Watching the documentary just reminded me how badly I wanted to see it.  Unfortunately, the chances of me seeing it any time soon are nil.

                     

Now, there’s another Cirque show coming to Las Vegas that I’m going to miss out on.  It is their newest creation, based on Elvis’ life and music, and tentatively set to open on January 8, 2010, after several weeks of private showings.  It doesn’t have a name yet, but it does have a website, http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/elvis/show.aspx.

 

The show will take place in a brand new hotel, Aria, a key component of the fabulous multistructure CityCenter.   It is on the site formerly occupied by the budget Boardwalk Hotel and other structures.


 

If you look at the map below, there is an open lot on the North side of the strip.  That’s where Aria is.  To the left is Monte Carlo, followed by New York, New York, Excalibur and Luxor.  To the right are Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and Mirage.  Right across the street are Aladdin and Paris, and the green X marks the MGM Grand.  So, the Elvis show will be right in the middle of the best part of the strip.

I think it must be a far greater challenge for Cirque du Soleil to build a show around Elvis music than it was with Beatles music.  So many of the Beatles songs are made-to-order for Cirque interpretation.  How about just the title of “An Octopus’s Garden?”  I’ll bet those Cirque producers didn’t hesitate for a minute to put that one on the list of 26 songs in the show.  How about “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” with lyrics like “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” or “cellophane flowers of yellow and green.”  If you were a creative person at Cirque, wouldn’t you love to create a production around that, or “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or “Sgt. Pepper?”

And it’s not just the titles or lyrics of Beatles songs that lend themselves to a Cirque production.  There is also the music, the instrumentation.  During the late 60s, the Beatles explored new sonic territory and produced trippy kaleidoscopes of sound.  In albums like Revolver, The White Album, Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles were at the forefront of the new music for the psychedelic era.  They pushed the envelope with unheard of levels of fearless experimentation.  And the results were superb.

So far, the song list for the Cirque du Soleil Elvis show has not been announced.  Unlike the Beatles, the Elvis library of songs doesn’t supply many that are tailor-made for Cirque interpretation.  I love Elvis music as much as anybody, but you have to admit that his song topics and lyrics are not enough to build this kind of show around.  Elvis’ instrumentation is solid but not whimsical, and Cirque de Soleil is all about whimsy.

So, it is no surprise that the advance press releases point out that the Cirque Elvis show will celebrate his life and his music.  Elvis’ life was such a long and varied journey.  You can easily think of the parts of the Elvis timeline that Cirque will feature:  Sun records, early touring around the South, Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan TV shows, Army service, movies, ’68 Comeback Special, Aloha from Hawaii, the jumpsuit years.  Vincent Patterson, the director of the Elvis production, said that first he decided on the sections of Elvis’ life to cover, and then he found the songs that were appropriate for each section.

I suspect that one way he will tell his Elvis story is by using a feature I noticed at both Cirque shows I watched.  Images are shown on a gauzy fabric screen stretched across the stage, while live performers do their thing behind it or in front of it, or both.  Here is a look at how it is done in the Beatles’ “Love.”

Cirque du Soleil says it will present an abstract biography with little sparks of who Elvis was.  This includes showing the relationship between Elvis and his mother and between him and Col. Parker.  I can’t imagine what song they will pick for the Parker segment.

Director Patterson also says their Elvis show will be bold, sexy, energetic, funny and fantastic.  I’m sure it will.  I just hope I don’t have to wait five years to see it.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original  Elvis Blogmeister   All Rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis Returns To Live Concerts

 

History has recorded that Elvis’ return to the stage on July 31, 1969 in Las Vegas was a huge, major success.  It was his first live performance in eight years, and he was outstanding.  We are quickly approaching the 40th anniversary of this epic concert, so I checked out several sources in my Elvis library to find the best description of the event.  The winner, hands down, is from “The Boy Who Dared to Rock” by Paul Lichter.  Lichter was a friend of Elvis who saw many of his performances and now maintains an interesting Elvis website.  Here are a few choice lines from his excellent 1978 biography:

“There was utter pandemonium throughout the Showroom, and the screams grew louder.”

 “His high cheekbones and bronzed face seem to be untouched by the years that have passed.”

“…he flogged himself to near-exhaustion.  He was like a wild man!  He moved with both grace and animal sexuality.”

“He … lifted the audience beyond belief.”

“When he finished his renditions, there could be no denying the Presley magic.”

“Elvis made believers out of all of us who had ever doubted his talents and abilities.  It was a memorable night – a night when Elvis… proved he is still King.”

 

 

International Hotel, Las Vegas, During Elvis’ 1969 Run 

 

Based on what you just read, you would imagine that the entertainment critics for the Las Vegas Sun had written glorious praise about Elvis’ return to live performances.  Not really.  Let’s look at some reviews right after opening night and observe how some of the Sun’s hard-to-please writers didn’t want to say anything too nice about Elvis.

At least, it wasn’t as bad as the hard time they gave Elvis back in 1956, when he last played Las Vegas at the New Frontier Hotel.  The critics blasted him pretty good then, and Elvis considered the whole experience as less than satisfying.  It did not, however, divert him from his upward ascension as the King of Rock & Roll.

 

The International Hotel Showroom

 

Elvis rolled into Las Vegas in July 1969 on top of his game.  The ’68 Comeback Special had recharged his career, as did “In The Ghetto,” his huge Top 10 hit in early 1969.  But, the Sun’s reviewers still wanted to cut Elvis down a bit.

Joe Delaney ended his August I article with pretty blah and generic praises:

“Elvis is very much for real.  Elvis is here to stay.”

However, five lines into his piece, he shifted from Elvis and spent a lot of space talking about Shecky Greene and Sammy Shore.  Mr. Delaney obviously liked these two comedians, and there was a reason to give them brief mention.  Shecky Greene was the head-liner at those early Elvis shows at the Frontier.  Sammy Shore opened for Elvis at the International in 1969. 

Mr. Delaney finally did get back to Elvis by writing:

“We predict that Elvis will have his more enthusiastic followers walking around asking, 'Tom Who' and 'Elgelbert Who' when comparisons are attempted.”

“Streisand’s record at the International will be broken.”

“Elvis represents the finest effort by that master promoter, Col. Tom Parker.”

Did you notice something?  These were positive statements, but nowhere in them (or anywhere else in the review) did Mr. Delany say something good about Elvis’ performance.  No mention of his singing.  Nothing.

 

Elvis and Guitar During July 31, 1969 Performance

Another Sun writer, Ralph Pearl balanced his review with some good, some bad.  His first paragraph said:

“Elvis Presley got a constant, roaring approval from his fans who all but threw themselves into the aisles and out of the balcony as the Pelvis sang his many rock and roll hits while fiercely, almost savagely, turning himself outside in.”

Wow, that sounds like a 1956 review, doesn’t it?  Elvis still had it!  But, Mr. Pearl then joked about being assassinated by Presley fans because of this critical opinion:

“We found the glamorous rock and roll movie hero really cashing in on his reputation and not truly earning the enormous standing ovation at the close of his one hour song session.”

So, Elvis was a wild man moving around with animal sexuality, and the fans were going nuts, but this guy said Elvis was undeserving.  Mr. Pearl could have picked a better subject for sneaking in his prejudice against Elvis.  Of course, he found other things to quibble about:

“There was a noticeable lack of production or showcasing on his many songs.  The lad just got out there, wrapped his lean torso around a guitar and hammered out song after song.”

Ah, gee.  There weren’t any chorus girls.  Just thousands of people thrilled to see Elvis hammer out song after song.  It was a concert, Mr. Pearl, not a Vegas floor show.

 

          

                              Torso Wrapped Around Guitar                         Song after Song    

Elvis played two shows a night (8PM and Midnight) for twenty-eight days.  Then he took a break for five months.  When he returned to Las Vegas in February 1970, Elvis must have finally won over tough critic Joe Delaney, who wrote: 

“Sheer magic throughout… What impresses us is the great aura and attitude that permeates the entire presentation this time in.”

No wonder.  The doubts and worries from the previous July were now gone.  Elvis knew his first run back in Vegas was superb, and had every reason to believe his second appearance would be even better.  Without question, Elvis had this live concert thing well under control.  He would go on to do a total of 837 consecutive sold-out Las Vegas performances in front of 2.5 million fans.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis Will Never Leave the Building

An old high school buddy of mine is also an Elvis fan.  He lives in Indiana and has a background in history education.  So, it was a pleasant surprise when he sent me a copy of the Spring 2008 issue of Traces, the publication of the Indiana Historical Society, with this cover story: “The King’s Last Concert – Elvis Presley in Indianapolis.”

Although Elvis was in poor health in 1977, he still toured extensively. During the first six months, he gave fifty-five concerts all over the country.  In June he embarked on a ten-day tour through seven mid-western states.  He drew almost 18,000 fans to the last stop at The Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 26.  Fifty-one days later he was dead.

The article in Traces was written by Rita Rose, former Assistant Entertainment Editor of the morning Indianapolis Star.  Much of her story focused on her original review of the concert and that of Zack Dunkin, the rock music critic of the afternoon Indianapolis News.  He slammed Elvis pretty hard on several counts.  However, I cannot see the sense of this statement:  “When you pay $15 to see Elvis, you should see Elvis for three hours instead of one hour, 20 minutes.”  Come on, Mr. Dunkin, let’s be fair.  How many other concerts did you ever catch that lasted for three hours?  Not any, I’ll bet.  Certainly, none of the fans (who attended the concert) interviewed for the Traces article said anything about believing they were shortchanged.

 

Unused ticket from the Elvis’ last concert, listed on E-bay at $300

Mr. Dunkin also said, “It’s time ardent Presley fans quit protecting their idol and started demanding more.  They know ’the King’ can do better.”  The concert review appeared on the front page of the News, and that created a lot of attention.  For months afterward, Mr. Dunkin was tagged as an Elvis hater, and he received hate mail, even an angry letter from his father.  I love Mr. Dunkin’s later quote:  “What I learned was, you don’t mess with the King.”

Rita Rose’s own review in the Star began by referencing Elvis’ October 1974 concert in Indianapolis.  “The big question was, of course, had he lost weight?  His last concert, nearly two years ago, found Elvis overweight, sick and prone to give a lethargic performance.  As the lights in the Arena were turned down, you could feel a silent plea rippling through the audience:  Please. Elvis, don’t be fat.”

        

Coming on stage

                  
Belting out a high note

 

What Ms. Rose wrote next was far more favorable than that of her counterpart at the other paper.  “And then he appeared, in a gold and white jumpsuit and white boots, bounding onstage with energy that was a relief to everyone.  At 42, Elvis was still carrying around some excess baggage on his midsection, but it didn’t stop him from giving a performance in true Elvis style.”

Booklet from last concert – get one on E-bay for $150

Of course, newspaper reviewers never had the same reactions as the Elvis fans who attended his concerts.  Here’s a great quote by Sheilah Craft from the Traces article:  “I remember when the lights dimmed as he prepared to take the stage.  I gripped the rail in front of me so tightly that my hands were sore.  When the 2001 theme began, my heart skipped a few beats.  But when I saw the top of his hair in the spotlight as he came on stage, my face and arms became numb.  In retrospect, I think I must have been in some kind of shock at just the sight of him.”

The Elvis fans in the area objected loudly when it was announced in 1999 that the Market Square Arena was scheduled for demolition.  They tried to save the building because of its historical significance as the home of Elvis’ last performance.  Their efforts did not prevail, and demolition took place on July 8, 2001.

 

 

However, on June 26, 2002, a granite and bronze Elvis monument was erected on the former site.   It cost $10,000, paid for entirely by donations from Elvis fans.

The monument includes a time capsule to be opened in a hundred years.  Contained inside are fan letters, photos of fans with Elvis, and a scarf given by Elvis to one of the fans at the concert.

Thus, it is no surprise that Ms Rose’s article in Traces starts with:  “Elvis will never leave the building, even if the building – Market Square Arena – is no longer standing.”

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net