August 4(?), 1969
By Will ?
Las Vegas, Aug. 4 – The Elvis Presley who was a freakish kid curiosity when he was third-billed on a New Frontier showbill in April 1956 is no more. He has become ‘ELVIS,’ not only in huge electric letters on the International ‘s marquee, but in most publicized and verbalized affirmations of his superstar status. His month in the International is practically a sellout in the return to two-a-night (at $100,000 per week) after nine years away from such in-person sorties.
Presley has had to get in shape physically as well as musically for this month. Long, grueling rehearsals have put him back into the old groove, with warbling synchronizations emerging from okay to excellent. The typical body turbinations, however, leave him huffing and puffing after several particularly wild onslaughts to recapture the early physical and sexual image.
The early siren strains that elevated Presley into leadership of the 50’s vanguard (who converted black rhythm & blues into white rock ‘n’ roll) seem rather quaint in relation to some of the open permissiveness in lyrics and gestures now in vogue. Each one is accorded huge acclaim as he opens with Blue Suede Shoes.
Similar paeans of approval accompany gyratory, thrusting motions during Jailhouse Rock, Don’t Be Cruel, [Heartbreak Hotel], All Shook Up and Hound Dog.
During his early ascendance, Presley received serious accolades for his ballads from critics who put down his more sensational displays. He proves his mastery of this more sensitive element in some throaty purrs of Love Me Tender, Memories, In The Ghetto and Yesterday. A new direction is indicated in the interesting move from Nashville to Memphis sound in a re-creation of current disk, Suspicious Minds. It is driving, sensuous, medium rock that whips the audience into a frenzy. Contributing to the total blend are the four femme Sweet Inspriations and male Imperials quartet. The choir, plus the instrumental rock sextet of James Burton, performing fine lead guitar; John Wilkinson, rhythm guitar; Ronnie Tutt, drums; Jerry Scheff, electric bass; Larry Muhoberac, piano, and Charles Hodge, guitar and combo factotum, are combined upon chart demands with the large brass, reed, and string sections of the Bobby Morris orchestra for meritorious backing.
Sammy Shore has an exuberant air as he romps into one-liners and various embellishments on yockery dealing with the hotel itself, Vegas mores, a notorious L.A. used car dealer, matador manager in Mexican dialect and a rather prolonged caricature of a Deep South preacher in the heady atmosphere of casinoland. Although Shore’s period is filled with ups and downs on the laugh meter, he emerges intact with better than average results.
Sweet Inspirations ‘ warmup set does not measure up too well. Their gospel style converted to secular tunes is often squalling and off-key and notably hampered by overly high gain on room’s sound system. This amplification unit, by the way, also acted up several times during the Presley stanza, with severe feedback oscillations causing discomfort on both sides of the stage. It was out completely for Shore’s turn for about three frustrating minutes.
Presley took all things in fine stride at the preem, with most star acts on the Strip in attendance and a total of about 2,000 present. No verbal hurrah or musical fanfare accompanied his slouching, grinning, amble from the wings, dressed in open-neck black blouse and bell trousers. He was immediately affable and, although nervous, very much in command of the entire scene as he went on to prove himself as one of the more potent Vegas lures.