Elvis On Tour - Part II 

September /October 1974 tour

By Rocky Barra

Whenever I review a concert or a series or concerts, I spend a great deal of time doing it. I try to be as honest and sincere about the shows as I am able. The show on the 30th was a masterpiece in every sense of the word.... but I wouldn't be doing my job, as I see it, if I didn't report on all the shows I saw. There was one other outstanding show, and that was the evening performance in Indianapolis. Elvis, once again, was really into things and right after he finished C. C. RIDER, he said, " There are some people who think I can't play the guitar... so I've got to show them they're wrong. " He then called Charlie over to hold the microphone to his accoustic guitar as he played the intro, and sang a GREAT rendition of THAT'S ALL RIGHT MAMA. When he finished, he went onto I GOT A WOMAN, and the rest of the show. But he also added BLUE CHRISTMAS, IT'S NOW OR NEVER, and HOW GREAT THOU ART. It was an outstanding show  and really left you more than satisfied. He also added THE WONDER OF YOU.   

Photographer unknown © October 5th 1974 - in front of the Indianapolis Hilton on his way to the matinee concert

Three other shows ( October 1st in South Bend, October 2nd in St. Paul, and October 4th in Detroit ) were passing for Elvis. They were entertaining and satisfying, although it was obvious to people who have seen Elvis more than once that he wasn't putting out 100%. Still, the shows were of a calibre that he could continue to do the same type of show and pack out arenas for the next ten years, because he IS Elvis. 

However, I saw two shows that were quite a bit different, and a new experience for me as an Elvis fan. September 29, in Detroit, and the afternoon of October 5, in Indianapolis. These shows were very similar in one aspect: If I were being kind, I would say they were poor.... if I had to be honest, I would say they were AWFUL! I honestly couldn't believe my eyes (and ears). 

For the Detroit show, which was the first show I saw on the tour, Elvis sang 14 songs ( instead of the usual 23-25 ) and was only on stage 30 minutes. He also let Voice and The Stamps sing three songs while he stood at the back of the stage. He was not " into " a single song, held his head down for most of the show, and mumbled so much that not a single comment could be heard by 90% of the audience. There wasn't a single show-stopping song ( Trilogy, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Polk Salad, etc. ) included. He also used some of the worst and unnecessary language from the stage I've ever heard. Now you must realize that Detroit is really an Elvis town. They love him! Usually after one of his shows in Detroit, people pour out of the stadium smiling, talking about how great the show was, and bragging about their favourite songs. This makes me, and most other fans, feel real good. However, this time they were saying things like, " What a rip-off, ," What happened to Elvis, " and " I can't believe it. " I almost felt like crying... especially because I knew a lot of my friends were seeing him for the first time.   

Sean Shaver © Indianapolis, IN. October 5th 1974 matinee

The same exact thing at the Indianapolis matinee. Now I am well aware that it is rough for performers to do matinee shows... but Iím not talking about an "off night, " it didn't even seem like Elvis up on stage. The reviews in the papers were bad, and they should have been. 

Now I am well aware that there are some readers who do not like for us to print anything that is the least bit against Elvis... for any reason. But this is not just my opinion. It is fact! I received literally hundreds of letters from people who saw the shows (one or the other) that asked, " What happened, " " What's the matter with Elvis? " or told how disappointed they were. . .. . and these are 100% fans, people who have followed Elvis for years. 

As I stated, to my knowledge, I am talking about only these two shows. The reports I have from other cities are good. The obvious question that comes to the mind of an Elvis fan is " Why? " I know that Elvis was very sick during part of the tour, and under a doctor's care. Elvis is very proud of the fact that in his entire career, he has only missed 5 performances. In fact, many times he has gone on stage against his doctor's and manager's wishes. He is a totally giving performer. I KNOW Elvis wasn't feeling well, and this just has to affect his performance. But I think there is something else involved too.


Sean Shaver © Detroit, MI. October 4th 1974

The press has never been kind to Elvis, always trying to jump on any small bit of information they can muster to sensationalize for a story. Over the years, Elvis has stayed amazingly clean. Only in the last year has he come out somewhat and said how much these articles ( which sometimes contain a little truth--often contain NO truth ) are starting to get to him. Elvis is not on drugs. Elvis is not suffering from an incurable disease. Elvis is not starting to age all at once. Some of these stories really put me off too! It's no wonder that Elvis gets upset. I can't even imagine being in his position.    

In the middle and late sixties, Elvis definitely got into a rut with his film career. It was three films a year, EVERY year. The same stuff over and over again. He got so sick of it that it even became obvious to his fans, that he was only walking through his parts ( what little parts he had to work with ). Let's do a little thinking. For a couple of years now, it has been: Vegas -Tour -Vegas -Tour Vegas -Tour -Vegas -Tour. If the movies started to seem all the same to Elvis, just think how the concerts must be. As important as his performance and his fans are to Elvis ( and they are ) I think the heavy schedule is beginning to take it's toll. Elvis' fans, for the most part, really DO care about him, not only as an entertainer, but as an individual and as a person., 

I would love to hear Col. Parker's office announce that Elvis is taking six months off from personal appearances to relax. This would not only benefit his health, but just relaxing for some time, when he DID go back to performing, it would be all that much fresher to him and I'm sure it would show!   

Photographer unknown © October 5th 1974 - arriving at the Expo Convention Center for the the evening concert

It really bothered me to see Elvis being ill.... almost getting over it.... and then having to work again with the terribly demanding schedule that he keeps. Elvis takes his work very seriously. He knows the tremendous responsibility he carries. But, just for a minute, put yourself in his place. I guarantee ( in a five-year period ) you would be doing a lot more than just two shows that were under par... I know I would. 

Elvis is not on drugs. . he is not getting too old to cut it anymore... he has not stopped caring about his performances or his fans. . but it may just be possible that they are trying to wring a little too much out of him. 

Elvis is the greatest entertainer in the world. It is only fair that he be allowed to operate under top conditions... with HIMSELF in top condition. He is just as capable of destroying anyone with his pure, God-given talent now as he was in 1956 or 1969. 1 KNOW! I saw the concert at Notre Dame.  

 Originally published in Strictly Elvis # 80