Have you watched “Elvis Lives” on your local educational television channel yet?  I watched it this week and enjoyed what I saw very much.  However, they left out some stuff I was looking forward to, so I’m a little bit disappointed.


For anyone who doesn’t know, “Elvis Lives” is the name of a new DVD release of the performance of “Elvis The Concert” in Memphis during the 25th Anniversary Elvis Week 2002. Hopefully, all Elvisblog readers know that “Elvis The Concert” is a multimedia blending of old Elvis performance video with live musical backing by the band-mates, vocal group back-ups, and the orchestra that performed with him throughout the 70s.  Because I had attended the real event five years ago, I was interested to see how that unique concept translated to DVD.  I must say, it worked very well indeed.


Even though my tickets for the original concert cost $65 each, I was still a long way from the stage.  I primarily watched the three giant screens above the musicians.  The largest one in the center had the old Elvis footage, and the two side screens had live shots of the guys in the TCB Band, the Imperials, JD Sumner and The Stamps, and the Sweet Inspirations.  From my distance, all these folks looked to be about a half inch tall.


However, the DVD showed close-ups of all the live musicians and singers, and this added so much to the experience.  Now, I could see James Burton’s fingers working when the camera zoomed in on his guitar.  I liked the frequent shots of Ronnie Tutt beating on that monster drum set and Glen D. Hardin pounding on the ivories.  One particularly interesting feature was when the DVD showed side-by-side split-screen images of 1973 and 2002 James Burton doing guitar solos on the same song.


Speaking of instrumental breaks, there was a little segment where Ronnie Tutt explained how the TCB guys could do longer solos in 2002 than on the original footage of “Johnny B. Goode.”  The film technicians would repeat a loop of the Elvis stuff on the main screen while each of the band-mates had their turn to solo.  James was great, and Jerry Scheff did some fine work on the bass, which is not an easy thing to pull off.  Glen D. Hardin did his solo, and then it was up to Ronnie to end it all at the right time and match up with the return of Elvis singing.  He pulled it off and the whole segment was a blast.


Much of the vintage footage used in the production was from the “Aloha From Hawaii” TV special.  However, Elvis did appear in two other jumpsuits, but these costume switches didn’t mess up the continuity.  Which brings me to the part that was missing from the TV special and the DVD.


“Elvis The Concert” was created in the mid-90s and was built around video from the 70s when the TCB Band backed Elvis in Las Vegas and on tour around the country.  However, to make the 25th Anniversary celebration in Memphis really special, a new opening feature was added.  It was film from Elvis’ career on TV shows in 1956 and from his earliest movies.  Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, Bill Black, and The Jordanaires backed Elvis in those days.  Bill Black had passed away in 1963, and Scotty and Graceland had not yet patched up their differences, so DJ was the only original musician on the stage.  Fill-in players, whose names were not familiar to me, capably handled the guitar and bass parts.


I can’t remember all the songs in this early Elvis segment, but I’m pretty sure one was “Ready Teddy” from The Ed Sullivan show where Elvis really got to shake his hips and drive the girls in the TV audience crazy.  One other song I was so happy to see in the 2002 concert was “Baby I Don’t Care.”  This has long been one of my favorite Elvis songs, and I consider it his best recording never released as a single.  The footage of Elvis doing the song came from the poolside scene in the movie Jailhouse Rock.


For some reason, this wonderful early Elvis segment was not included in the ETV special. Nor were ten additional songs from the 70s that are on the DVD.  The 1-1/2 hour telecast had several long breaks asking for donations to public television, so the actual concert time totaled only an hour or so.  The DVD is much longer with the extra songs and a half-hour of interviews as a bonus.  Priscilla and Lisa Marie both came on stage during the 2002 presentation of “Elvis The Concert,” but it is unclear whether this is shown in the DVD. 


One of the best songs on “Elvis Lives” is “Steamroller Blues.”  I get tickled when Elvis sings, “I’m a churning urn of burning funk.”  Other good songs on the TV specials were: “That’s All Right,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Suspicious Minds,” “A Big Hunk Of Love,” “ My Way,” “American Trilogy,” and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love.”


Some folks criticize EPE for just about anything they do.  Not this time.  Graceland has created a most unique Elvis video, a true technical marvel.  First, they created a superb concert experience blending the music of a live band with Elvis voice from 29 years earlier.  Now they have made real magic with the video of it all.  It is done so well, you might scratch your head and ask, “When did Elvis play with all those old dudes?”  Don’t worry about it.  These old dudes kick butt.


©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

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