"it is hard to imagine a better performance...."
reviewed by Andy Urias
This must have been one exciting evening in Las Vegas on August 10, 1970. Elvis Presley, one of the most sensational performers of all time, starting his summer Vegas run for 1970. His 1969 return to live performing was a milestone in his career and he delivered the goods. By the time he returned the Las Vegas stage in February 1970, he not only was still at the top of his game, but his set-list had evolved to arguably a more impressive level.
His show now consisted of newly recorded contemporary ballads and upbeat adult-contemporary rock songs in addition to some of his classic songs from the 50s. It was this sort of versatile set-list that he took to Vegas 6 months later and one that he basically stuck with for the remainder of his career. So when he started his third run in Las Vegas during the summer of 1970, it seems that he had found a formula that he was comfortable with and one that the fans enthusiastically supported.
One thing that was very different from his shows 6 months before was that this time his performances would be filmed by a MGM film crew for an upcoming documentary of his Vegas return (strangely enough, his true return occurred one year earlier, so the upcoming documentary was really more of a representation of what his live performances currently were and the film also was more of a marketing tool than anything else). Elvis knew that there was a lot riding on the success of these shows as they would be permanently preserved and archived for eternity. Without a doubt, Elvis came through.
As Elvis enters the stage on 'One Night In Vegas,' he explodes right into 'That's All Right Mama' which immediately segues into a blazing version of 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man'. These versions are pretty standard for 1970, filled with explosive energy.
Next he cranks into a real strong version of ?I Can't Stop Loving You'. At this point, it has to be apparent to everyone including Elvis that this is going to be a smoking show. After walking through 'Love Me Tender', Elvis finally attempts to tackle one of his recently recorded songs, 'The Next Step Is Love'. It is hard to find the right words for this song. His performance of it is adequate, but it is lacking something. Most likely, it is lacking substance, as the song is really quite weak. "...Made some faces at some people in the park and didn't bother to explain..." and "...Fun fun look at us run..." Pretty ridiculous lyrics for a ballad. His studio version is a lot better as the studio production saves it a little.
Next up is 'Words' and this is an excellent version of this song, but not too different than any other versions from this period as he usually performed it brilliantly. The first real challenge of the evening comes next with 'I Just Can't Help Believing'. It starts off a little shaky, but comes together quite quickly. It is a very strong ballad and Elvis performs a wonderful version of it, however, the master version has a slight edge over this one.
'Something' is performed very nicely. There have been a few different versions of this song performed over the years, but in my opinion, no one including The Beatles themselves ever performed this song anywhere near the level Elvis did. It is almost as if this is the way it is supposed to sound and be performed.
Next Elvis jumps in 'Sweet Caroline.' Once again, another stunning performance occurs during this concert. This is definitely one of his greatest performances of this song. The newer material continues with Elvis' incredible rendition of the classic 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling'. It would be hard to imagine Elvis ever performing this song poorly in 1970.
Elvis then jumps into his 7th ballad in a row with his newly recorded 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me'. This isn't the most stunning version of this song, but at the same time, it probably wasn't the easiest song to perform live. First of all, I do believe the studio production of the song enhanced it and the fact that Elvis seems to be rushing through this particular version a little bit doesn't help matters.
Suddenly the concert takes a different turn. The love songs and ballads have come to an end and Elvis segues into his romping version of 'Polk Salad Annie.' The kind of sound Elvis produced on stage in 1970 with versions of songs like 'Polk Salad Annie' is pretty unique. So many different elements and styles of music were intertwined which created a unique musical extravaganza.
[IMGl]http://www.tcb-world.com/images/reviews/dressingroom_august10_1970.jpg[/IMGl] Up to this point, it is hard to imagine a better performance for opening nights concert that is being filmed. The crowd is into it, Elvis is on, and the band is playing tight. Now a strange edit occurs on this FTD release which in a way stops the momentum. Ernst Jorgensen edits out the band intros. Not that the band intros are that interesting, but it is the principle of it. Even worse, it has been noted that Elvis may have very well performed 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'Heartbreak Hotel' immediately after the band intros. There is no excuse to remove these songs. When one looks at the set-list of 'One Night In Vegas' it is obvious that something is missing. It is hard to imagine Elvis not performing some of his big 50's hits. Aside from a lame 'Love Me Tender' and a couple of his Sun tunes, nothing from the 50's are performed. BMG is pushing it if they think they can sell the idea that some of those 50s songs were not performed. Personally, I am not a fan of Elvis' performances of his 50's songs in the 70's, but there was no reason to edit them out of a so-called "complete" concert. Unless there was an actual problem with the recording, the songs and band intro segment should have been left in. With the running time of the CD at 72 minutes, there was certainly enough time to add those two songs that are most likely missing. If BMG is going to release live shows, they shouldn't tamper with them unless there are unavoidable technical problems.
With that said, the concert then moves on with a decent version of 'I've Lost You'. He then moves on to a stunning version of 'Bridge Over Trouble Water'. This is the sort of song, like many of his other ballads from 1970, you could guarantee he would perform with passion and almost flawless execution.
The show is coming to an end and Elvis finishes with a bang. Next he performs a powerful version of 'Patch It Up'. This may have been his hardest rocking song of the 70's. This was definitely a way to get the crowd on its feet and right after the conclusion of the song, he rolled into his consistent show closing number, 'I Can't Help Falling In Love.' It is an average version like it usually was. It is a shame that he usually threw away the last song. However, it seems that 'Can't Help Falling In Love' was more about the ending of an event, the conclusion of an hour with one of the greatest live performers ever, rather than one last breathtaking number anyway.
This is an outstanding show. Something the fans and the music world came to expect out of Elvis at this stage of his career. It is absolutely ridiculous that BMG waited until the year 2000 to finally release a concert in its entirety from 1970 considering it represents truly how amazing Elvis was in concert.
Of course, there is still some more to discuss. There are a few additional songs added to the end of the concert that are from some rehearsals. Some fans may find this as a wonderful bonus. Personally, I think it was a waste of space. Yes, I'm happy to have a few more unreleased rehearsal performances, but they shouldn't have been included on this release, especially if they are what replaced the missing songs from the concert. If BMG wanted to add rehearsal material, they should have added some stage rehearsals, as they would have been more of a representation of a true sound-check rehearsal, which most artists perform before a big concert. The bottom line is that the CD didn't need rehearsals, it needed to be a complete show.
Aside from the inclusion of unnecessary rehearsals and the omitted songs and band intros, this is one fantastic CD. Every Elvis fan and every person out there who wants the live Elvis experience should own a copy of "One Night In Vegas ". The artwork isn't too bad, but as with all FTD releases, the entire release could have been enhanced with some additional information within the packaging about the music. I will conclude by saying that BMG/FTD still has the ability to release a handful of incredible shows such as this from 1969-1970. Let's hope that this is just the beginning. Elvis deserves to be recognised in this way.
? Andy Urias, June 30 2001