"....Not the best, not the worst"
review by Rockinrebel
The soundboard tape starts just as Elvis is about to sing ?See See Rider?, and what follows is a fairly decent opening number, which is reminiscent of the versions we are familiar with from the 1976 ? 1977 period in terms of the arrangement, and Elvis? vocal phrasing, which is now somewhat different from the versions of the song performed during the early part of the decade.
Elvis is very talkative after the first song, and then responds to an early audience request by saying, ?don?t start throwing songs at me?. He launches into a fairly weak version of ?I Got A Woman/Amen? that features an overlong ?dive-bomber? routine at the end.
More talk follows before Elvis performs the crowd-pleasing oldies ?Love Me? and ?Blue Suede Shoes?. ?Blue Suede? is particularly rushed here, and Elvis seems somewhat irritated at the lack of response from the audience at the end saying, ?we just did a **** song, nobody applauded?. Elvis continues talking to the audience, joking, ?I gotta do this show? in a preacher type voice, and talking about his upbringing in the First Assembly of God Church.
?It?s Midnight? follows, and this is well performed, and clearly illustrates how much better Elvis was at this stage in his career when he was actually interested in the material he was singing. This is quickly followed by a fair version of ?Big Boss Man?. Elvis is obviously trying hard here, but the song never really hits the heights
?Fever? is next, and this starts with Elvis joking, ?you grabbed the wrong thing, I?m in trouble?, and an extended introduction follows whilst Elvis chats and jokes with the audience. Elvis normally had fun with this song during his later concerts, and the version included here is no exception, with Elvis playing on the words, and teasing his audience. More crowd-pleasing oldies follow with the trio of ?Love Me Tender?, ?Hound Dog?, and ?Heartbreak Hotel?. ?Hound Dog? is performed quite fast, but does feature some funky guitar playing from James Burton, whilst the slower bluesy arrangement of ?Heartbreak Hotel? is probably the pick of the bunch here.
Elvis then changes the pace with ?If You Love Me, Let Me Know?, and this is a good performance. Elvis was obviously fond of this song, and sounds like he is enjoying himself here, even singing along to James Burton?s guitar introduction as the song begins. He then tells the crowd, ?let?s do Bridge ? we hope we can do a good version of Bridge Over Troubled Water?, but unfortunately the version that follows here doesn?t compare to the 1970 ? 72 performances, with Elvis struggling to hit the high notes at times.
The introductions follow, and by this stage in Elvis? career these were quite lengthy and featured individual solos from the TCB band. The introduction of James Burton results in some great funky guitar playing, and during Glen D?s piano solo Elvis starts what sounded to me like an impromptu performance of ?Lawdy Miss Clawdy?, that the rest of the band pick up on, and this results in a decent complete performance.
More crowd pleasers follow the introductions with Elvis running through quick versions of ?Teddy Bear?, ?Don?t Be Cruel? and ?All Shook Up?, before he changes the pace again with ?Let Me Be There?. Like ?If You Love Me?, this song was obviously a favourite with Elvis around this time, and again this results in a good performance.
?It?s Now Or Never? follows, and it makes a nice change to hear the song performed here without Sherrill Nielsen?s solo introduction. This version is performed slightly slower than the later tour versions, and doesn?t feature the heavy orchestration that was also added during the later tours, and this makes for a nice surprise addition to the set list.
Elvis follows this with ?You Gave Me A Mountain?, and those that are familiar with the soundboard recordings from Elvis? August ? September Las Vegas season during the same year will recognise the treatment the song gets here, with Elvis reverting to a dramatic spoken rendition during the parts of the lyrics that reflected his own personal life at the time. Personally, I think Elvis performed the song better during 1972 ? 1973, and continued to do the song justice during his later tours when he returned to the original arrangement, but I ?ve never been keen on this partly spoken arrangement, and I don?t think the version included here is one of the best vocally either.
A rockin? ?Johnny B. Goode? follows with Elvis sounding like he?s having fun, and James Burton providing some excellent guitar licks. Elvis then starts talking to the audience about the band aids on his fingers and the various rings he his wearing, and this is followed by the ?I?m telling you this because you paid for ?em? joke which was also an unnecessary feature of his August ? September Las Vegas shows.
A vocally weak ?Hawaiian Wedding Song? follows, and when this song ends, Elvis is about to wrap up the performance telling the audience, ?we have never played here before, and it?s been an honour to play for you?. At this point a member of the audience shouts out a request for ?Steamroller Blues?, and Elvis responds to this and puts in a fine performance of the song, which also features some excellent playing from James Burton, and for me was the highlight of the entire show. Elvis then ends the concert with the customary closing number ?Can?t Help falling In Love?
Three bonus songs are also included, and the first of these is a nice impromptu version of ?Alright Okay, You Win? which is performed during Glen D?s piano solo from a concert on the same tour in Detroit on September 29, and this makes a nice addition to the CD.
The final two bonus songs come from the controversial College Park concert from the previous day, and these are a somewhat flat sounding ?Blue Christmas?, and a fair attempt at ?Trying To Get To You?.
In summing up this isn?t the best Elvis concert you?ll ever hear, but it?s by no means the worst either. The problems that were very apparent in Elvis' closing Las Vegas show on September 2, and the College Park, Maryland concert from earlier in this tour are still in evidence here, but to a lesser extent. Some of the banter here is good-natured, but Elvis does appear to lose his train of thought at times, resulting in some unnecessary dialogues, and the thick-tongued sound that his voice often had around this time is a feature here.
There are times when Elvis? voice appears weak, and he does struggle on some performances, but this is not constant throughout the show, which also boasts some good performances. If you already have good live versions of the songs included here, then this CD is not going to add anything new to your collection, and you aren?t going to find the definitive versions of any song on this disc. However, if you collect ?70?s concerts, this disc provides another interesting document of life on the road with Elvis, and is comparable in terms of sound quality and performance level to the unofficial releases that we have from the same time period.