Elvis On Tour - Part I 

September /October 1974 tour

By Rocky Barra

Of all of the times I have had the pleasure of seeing Elvis perform, his recent October tour is going to be the hardest to review. I was fortunate enough to see seven shows this time: Detroit on September 29, South Bend on the 30th and October 1, October 2nd in St. Paul, back in Detroit on the 4th, and twice in Indianapolis on October 5th. Obviously, this schedule involved quite a bit of driving. . . but when you're an Elvis fan, you can count on putting quite a few extra miles on your car.   

J.A.T. Publishing South Bend, IN. October 1st 1974

First I will attempt to review the September 30th concert at South Bend. For those of you who attended this show.... you really saw something! I honestly think that this was about the best I have seen Elvis in concert during the last two years. He was appearing at the new Notre Dame coliseum. It is, beyond a doubt, the most beautiful and functional structure of it's type in the country. Aside from seating over 12,000 in the, auditorium, there was an indoor hockey arena, a fantastic indoor track plant, meeting rooms, restaurants, and a " hall of fame " that depicted many of the sports greats that have attended Notre Dame over the years. The arena was accoustically one of the best Elvis has played. Knowing Elvis' love of football, and his admiration for the Notre Dame team, I had a hunch that he would be " up " for the show.... and he sure was! 

The crowd responded very well to Voice, who did the same three tunes that have been doing since they started with Elvis, and the Sweet Inspirations, who did a very good set and were at their usual best. 

Jackie Kahane, who has a tendency to stick with the same material every tour, seemed to be pacing himself much better this time and was well received in every city. I'll just take a second to point out that Elvis, and every other entertainer, plays to the city they are in. What I mean is that they assume, and rightly so, that the people who are seeing the show are seeing it for the first time ( at least since Elvis previously played the city.... usually two years or so ). There is a small group of fans ( myself included ) who DO drive hundreds of miles to see Elvis on each tour he undertakes. Some of these fans have asked me " Why doesn't Elvis change his show from city to city? " As I stated, this is a very small percentage of the audience. Entertainers do not " play " to this segment of their audience. It would be both undiserable and unprofessional for Elvis to COMPLETELY change his show whenever he hits a different town, although he obviously knows enough different songs to do so. 

The house lights are being turned on and it is intermission time.. Now I am well aware that the main purpose of a tour is to make money, and that selling souvenirs has traditionally be a staple of the Presley machine... but things have become a giant farce. This doesn't bother me as much as it does most of you, as I have received many, many letters telling me how turned off people have become of the constant and ever-present hawking of " Elvis momentos. " It's not the items themselves ( all are good ) but the way that they are sold that is bothering many people. The worst aspect of all this circus hawking is that it has caused Elvis a great deal of bad press.... and Elvis has NOTHING to do with this end of the business.   

J.A.T. Publishing South Bend, IN. October 1st 1974

The house lights went back down, the 2001 Theme began, and Elvis rolled on stage to Ronnie Tutt's pounding introduction. As in all of the cities on the tour, Elvis came on stage wearing sunglasses, which he took off and handed to someone in the first row before he started singing. Elvis' jumpsuits have been getting more spectacular and glittery all the time ( almost too much so ), but on this tour, I thought he wore the most outstanding outfits he has ever worn. At the Notre Dame show, he came out in a white jumpsuit with an orange tiger on the front and back, with it's one paw seemingly reaching out to scratch someone, and orange and black belt and trim down the legs. It sounds wild, and it was, but there wasn't the unnecessary distraction that some of his glitter suits cause. 

After you've seen a certain number of Elvis shows, you can almost tell from the first number whether Elvis is really up or not. When he is really on, he is obviously confident, moving his legs, and more or less " attacks " the microphone. You can also see his band members nodding and smiling towards each other      they know! 

Elvis literally tore into C. C. Rider. It was the best I've ever seen him do it. He was just screaming the words and really involved physically. There are some people who say it doesn't matter if Elvis is " moving " or not--they are wrong! Elvis' movements are much more than a part of the " legend. " When he is truly into a song, ALL aspects of Elvis Presley reflect it: vocal, visual, mental, and physical. Elvis can possibly fool some of the people some of the time.... but HE knows when he's on or not....and it shows from the word "Go. "

Next came a great rendition of I GOT A WOMAN. Elvis did the ending twice with J. D. Sumner making like a jet plane and Elvis flapping his " wings. "  

J.A.T. Publishing St.Paul, MN. October 2nd 1974

After the song, Elvis said " Hello " to the crowd and mentioned how much he has always wanted to play for Notre Dame. He was constantly joking with the crowd, giving little insights to himself, and referring to magazine articles that had been falsly written about him. He said that the movie magazines were really goofed up and that they didn't know what was going on in his personal life. Then he introduced his girlfriend sitting at the side of the stage, Sheila. This was done very briefly and almost as an afterthought. He then jokingly said that everyone was wrong about his lovelife and that he and Kathy Westmoreland had been " carrying on " for over four years. 

The next song was LOVE ME. Although Elvis has had this song as a part of his act for some time, when he thinks about what he sings, it still sounds great... and this was the case in South Bend. 

Elvis followed this with a rockin' version of BLUE SUEDE SHOES. After the song, Elvis noticed a sign that someone was holding up with the wording: " Elvis--The King. " Elvis said, " I thank you very much for the thought, but I have never gone for this ' King ' business. For me there is only one who has the right to be called King, and that's Jesus Christ. This really thrilled me to hear Elvis say this from the stage. Since I became a Christian, I have been unable to use this title in association with Elvis. I suppose most of you have noticed. "The king of entertainment " yes, but " King, " no! There is nothing wrong in admiring and enjoying Elvis' talent, but it IS wrong to make him your " God. " Elvis feels very strongly this way too, and he is thankful for the talent that God has given him. 

Elvis then announced that he was going to do his new record. We crossed our fingers and hoped he meant " Promised Land, " but instead he did IT'S MIDNIGHT. It was a truly great rendition and Elvis sounded even more powerful than he does on the record. For the most part, Elvis has ignored promoting his records on his tours, but it really does help sales and I was glad to see him do it with this side ( even though " Promised Land " would eventually become the hit side ). 

BIG BOSS MAN was next. If you haven't had a chance to hear Elvis' new rockin' arrangement of this yet, you're really in for a treat. I hope we see this version on record someday. Fantastic! FEVER was next--nothing new, but always a great crowd pleaser.   

Bob Heis Dayton, OH. October 6th 1974 matinee

LOVE ME TENDER is a song that is very popular with all audiences. Because Elvis has done it so many times, he sometimes tends to talk through it, but not at this show. I think this was the best version of this that Elvis has done in many moons. The same comments apply to the next song, HOUND DOG. Elvis and the band really kicked it on the ending. 

Elvis followed with IF YOU LOVE ME LET ME KNOW, the Olivia Newton John number. For me, this is one of the highlights. Elvis covers the entire range of dynamics on this one. I don't know who did the arrangement on this one, but it's really outstanding and shows that, in most cases, Elvis can do songs recorded by other performers even better than the originals. Taking note of J. D. Sumner going " way down low " on the ending, Elvis says that he first heard J. D. when he was sixteen years old in Memphis. J. D. was singing with the Blackwood Brothers and Elvis was really impressed. He said he never thought he would be on the same stage with J. D. 

Next came an unbelievable version of BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER, with Elvis hitting notes that he never even tried for on this song. This was truly an experience. About one-third of the arena instantly stood up when the song was over. Rather than soaking up the applause, as 99% of performers will, Elvis quickly and gratefully acknowledged them and went on to introduce his band. On this tour, and probably from now on, the fantastic musicians that Elvis carries with him each played a solo as Elvis introduced them. First was James Burton. Elvis kept saying " Get funky, get funky, " and shaking his head, showing his admiration for Burton during his licks. John Wilkinson was introduced next, but not allowed to play a solo.. in fact, Elvis often joked about his lack of ability on the guitar. ( This WAS an obvious joke by Elvis and not to be taken any other way ).

Keith Alverson Dayton, OH. October 6th 1974 evening

 Ronnie Tutt was next announced and gave a short, but utterly fantastic, exhibition on the drums. Tutt always received the most applause, and rightly so. Duke Bardwell (bass) was given a shot next, to which Elvis usually remarked, " Fair " or " Not bad, Duke. " When Charlie Hodge was introduced, he handed out glasses of water to the audience. .,. NO, I'm just kidding! I know Hodge has a fan club. I'M KIDDING! Up to this point, the band is playing " Comin Home Baby, " and the solos are within that rhythm and progression. But when Glen D. Hardin (piano) is introduced, he breaks into a honky tonk shuffle... and then Elvis joins in with LAWDY MISS CLAWDY. It's a good version. Elvis finishes, and then goes onto introduce the rest of his crew Sometimes, but not in every concert, Elvis would bring out Voice or J. D. and The Stamps to do a solo shot, while he would stand at the back of the stage. 

At this show, Voice came out to do " Killing Me Softly. " Elvis would introduce it by asking the crowd, " How many of you have heard the song, " Killing Me Softly? " There would be a ton of applause, thinking that Elvis was about to sing it. Then he would ask Voice to come out and do it. This was my one complaint with the Notre Dame show.. not that Voice didn't do a good job, they were excellent on the song. But it was bad pacing, especially since Voice had already done their bit before Elvis walked out. It seemed to take a little of the momentum away from the concert, but Elvis got it back immediately by doing a savage version of POLK SALAD ANNIE. 

Next came WHY ME, LORD. Since the last Vegas stint, Elvis has tried ( sucessfully ) to break up J. D. on this song. It's become a private joke on stage. . . but doesn't add anything to the performance of the song. 

Elvis followed with a surprisingly good version of ALL SHOOK UP, then a medley of TEDDY BEAR and DON'T BE CRUEL. Now these are songs that Elvis can often be heard rushing through, but at South Bend, he gave them full throttle. These songs are rock classics, and that's just the way they sounded on September 30th. 

Someone yelled out for " Burning Love " and Elvis responded with " No way, Jose! " Someone then asked for Elvis to do " You Gave Me A Mountain, " and he said " Of course we'll do it. " We were fortunate enough to be sitting close enough to be able to hear the band talking, off microphone. Joe Guercio remarked, as the band members were hunting up the chart, " This is one of my favorites, I love the way he does this. " Joe was right! I have never heard Elvis come close to the dynamic power he put into this song on this particular night. Elvis was reaching notes I haven't heard in a couple of years. He dramatically " talked " one verse, and it sounded so sincere that it made you want to cry. Elvis really put the listener right in the song. I can't even describe how good this was. On the ending, Elvis bent over, and kept going over the lyrics, like in " I Can't Stop Loving You, " then hit a powerhouse high note as he finished it. Elvis has some of the finest singers in the world on the stage with him, but at the end of this song, they were just shaking their heads and smiling. Even though they are with him for every performance, they are still impressed with the man's talent. What really impresses me is that on those rare occassions, where he cuts EVERYTHING loose, he has so much in reserve that he doesn't usually tap. I have to just shake my head with the Stamps and Inspirations and admire THE super talent of our time.    

Bob Heis Indianapolis, IN. October 5th 1974 matinee

If YOU GAVE ME A MOUNTAIN got me excited, Elvis' next song, LET ME BE THERE, tore me in little pieces. Elvis has done this before and, it's always be a great song--a show stopper--but not like this! He literally screamed the words into the microphone with so much feeling that it didn't even sound like his normal delivery of the song. If you took the best of Elvis in the 50s, and the best of Elvis now, combined them and DOUBLED it, that's kind of how he sounded on this for this particular performance. Elvis himself seemed to be quite pleased with his performance on this number, as he seemed to be looking towards the Inspirations for encouragement. . . and he got it. I know this sounds unusual, but I am not exaggerating. On the last verse, Elvis got down on all fours and pounded the stage with his fist as he screamed into the mike. I haven't seen Elvis put so much of himself into a song since August, 1969... and that's the truth! His delivery was so doggone raucous, gutsy, and savage that I couldn't believe it. I don't know why Elvis was up so much for this show... but he sure was! 

Elvis then took a drink of water, and changed the setting completely. He had to! Another " Let Me Be There " and the building ( as new as it was ) would have come down! He performed a very beautiful and sensitive reading of HAWAIIAN WEDDING SONG. A complete departure from the last tune, but just as perfect in it's own way. When the song was finished, Elvis looked out into the crowd and said, " Allright, what do you wanna hear? " 200 different song titles came back at him. He looked over at Charlie and chuckled. We yelled out for " Promised Land. " Somehow he heard us ( I told you we were lucky enough to be sitting close ) and seemed pleased that we knew that was going to be the other side of his new single. He explained that he didn't know all the words, but said he would do another Chuck Berry song instead. He made good his word with JOHNNY B. GOODE. It was a solid version... not rushed... and Elvis rocked on it. 

Elvis then motioned for Glen Hardin to start I CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE. After finishing the song, he went out to the front of the stage for quite some time to greet the fans. Someone tore a ring off his finger and Red West immediately retrieved it for him. I didn't mention too much of the dialogue, but Elvis was really friendly and talkative in South Bend. He told the crowd how he had obtained his large diamond ring and thanked them because, " You bought it for me. " He introduced his father and said " He started it all. " He was totally giving and, as I said previously, I think this was the best I've seen him in at least two... maybe three years. And Elvis at his best is really saying something. As the band continued playing, he was rushed out of the building just as a huge throng of fans were rushing the stage. It was a show I'll never forget!

Part II

 Originally published in Strictly Elvis # 80