Detroit Dynamite

Detroit,MI April 6th, 1972

By Rocky Barra

 

When I saw that Elvis had, once again, included Detroit on the latest tour schedule, I was elated. The requests began coming in for tickets, but they were handled differently this time... almost entirely sold by mail order with no security of receiving a good seat. But at an Elvis concert, ANY seat is a good seat. We were fortunate enough to be stage center, only a few rows back. 

Elvis has been appearing in enough cities, and you have read about it over and over in S. E., so that I don't have to tell you how the tension and excitement builds up until the day of the concert. The fans began to pour in; Steve Toli from Boston, Nancy Burns from Cleveland, Sean Shaver from Kansas City, Gary Frank, Al Bigelow, Larry Longo, etc. Several of us were watching home movies of Elvis, comparing records, exchanging candids at my house before it was time to leave for the concert. ( My right-hand man Taylor Scott and Sean Shaver were deadlocked in an Elvis trade so invloved that we had to keep scorecards on them ). 

Olympia Stadium was jam-packed with fans, and those about to become fans when the announcer said, " The show will have to be delayed a few minutes due to the tremendous traffic jam in front of the arena. "  And it was true. People couldn't get through the doors because of the overflow of traffic. Finally ( about ten minutes later than scheduled ) the lights went down. Screams came from the crowd, but everyone knew it would be almost an hour before Elvis would make his appearance on the stage. 

The Sweet Inspirations opened the show. Their act was not up to the fine presentation I had seen them do many times in the past. They are so talented that it is impossible for them to do a bad show, or even anything close to it, but their selection of songs wasn't as good as on previous tours. They did a medley of songs that just did not fit together. Showmanship is one of the Inspirations' fortes, but the restless Detroit crowd wasn't buying it tonight. The applause was polite, nothing more. 

Jackie Kahane was the comic once again. He bombed, to put it lightly. His material was fine enough, his delivery very professional, and the jokes were funny... if anyone listened. But the crowd had come for only one thing. . to pay hommage to Elvis. Halfway through Kahane's act, the rhythmic clapping started, then chants of " We want Elvis, we want Elvis... " Poor Kahane had to stop in the middle of one of his routines, raised his hand and said thanks, and making his way off stage, could only shake his head. ( Ed. note: Detroit is Jackie Kahane's home town ).   

Sean Shaver Detroit, MI.  April 6, 1972

.A,fter the intermission, the house lights went down and a supercharged atmosphere filled the Olympia. The 2001 Theme faded into the machine gun drumming of Ronnie Tutt and the group went into " See See Rider. " Out he came dressed in a white jumpsuit with a massive bright orange belt and matching scarf. Elvis' hair was slightly longer ( and combed differently ) than when I had seen him in Vegas this past summer. The ovation was tremendous, and Elvis just kept smiling and shaking his head. Between Sean Shaver and myself, we had seen Elvis perform in concert in no fewer than twenty-five cities... Detroit's welcome ( both now and in 1970 ) was by far the loudest, wildest, and most enthusiastic of all the concert dates. This probably had something to do with Elvis' return engagement here. 

" See See Rider " was far superior to the record version on the " On Stage " LP. Burton's guitar lead was superb. Elvis was back, and Detroit responded with a decible output that could be heard all the way to Toledo ( and with several teddy bears thrown on stage ). Elvis was all smiles and it was obvious, throughout the concert, that he was enjoying himself. 

" Proud Mary " was next. A fantastic version with the modulating chorus at the end. The beat got stronger and stronger as J. D. Sumner echoed Elvis' " Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' on the river. " At the end of the song, in response to the unbelievable ovation he was receiving, Elvis shook his head and said, " Detroit is Crazy. " He repeated this statement several times that evening. 

I had never heard Elvis perform " I Never Been To Spain" before... and what a treat it turned out to be. Outstanding bass and guitar work laid out the foundation for Elvis' soulful gutteral tones. He really rocked on this one. Several of the younger fans I talked to said it was the highlight of the concert for them. 

Olympia is a massive structure built in a large oval. There were probably 3,000 seats behind Elvis that had to be content with seeing him perform from the back. But whenever he turned around, they really responded verbally. In fact, it became obvious that some of his most enthusiastic fans were sitting behind him. Whenever Elvis turned around to face them, or even jerked his head in their direction, they cheered so loudly that the roof almost rose from its foundations. Elvis seemed to get a kick out of this, and several times during the concert, gave them a quick double-take, as if a cat was playing with a bird he knew he had trapped. I must admit that Elvis was very fair to them and turned and faced them as much as possible. He knew they had come to see him perform and did his very best to please everyone in the arena.   

Sean Shaver Detroit, MI.  April 6, 1972

The next song was another that I was anxious to hear Elvis perform... "You Gave Me A Mountain. I always loved Frankie Laine's version of this, and had thought it would be a great song for Elvis to do; he didn't let me down. He changed the tempo of the song to suit him. It was performed at the same speed he did " The Wonder of You. " His vocal presence and power was clearly demonstrated on this. Elvis' movements on the instrumental accents were great and added to the excitement of the song. I can't wait until this is released on the " Standing Room Only " LP that is coming up. A perfect song for Elvis and a classic performance. 

" Until It's Time For You To Go " was a bigger hit in Detroit than it was in most parts of the country. When the band hit the introduction, the applause meter went way up. I personally don't consider this among Elvis' finer concert songs, although his stage arrangement had the single version all beat. The vocal backing was especially superior to the record. 

" Polk Salad Annie " was next. This song, however popular with the fans, is becoming a programmed thing  with Elvis... much the same as " Hound Dog " is. He does it because he knows the crowd expects it of him. I believe Elvis is kind of tired of doing this song. This time around wasn't nearly as good as the last tour, which wasn't as good as he did it the time before in Vegas, etc. Still a good rock kicker and his movements excited the crowd ( although he shortened the song considerably by leaving the recitation off at the beginning ). The bass solo by Jerry Scheff,can only be termed a " freak out. " 

" Love Me " was next, followed by " All Shook Up. " The way Elvis presents his old rock songs depends a lot on the mood he's in on a given night. Well, all I can say is that on April 6, Elvis was in a rocking mood. It was easily the best " Love Me " I've heard him do... with high notes that his imitators wouldn't dare attempt. "All Shook Up " was dynamite and he certainly couldn't be accused of simply " running through his old numbers to please the crowd " in Detroit. He felt " All Shook Up " and gave a great reading of it. 

A medley of " Teddy Bear " and " Don't Be Cruel " came next. Elvis stayed in the mold he cast in the 1950's for these songs too. He was slurring the words and used all the style that made these songs rock classics in 1956 and 1957. 1 have seen Elvis perform many times, and he doesn't always give the old rock songs his full attention... but on this given night, Elvis was again the " King of Rock. " After " Cruel " was finished, he turned to the band and called out " Let's do 'Little Sister. " Elvis pretty much has his show set before he comes out on stage. And the addition of this song, while he was out there, showed the mood he was in. It was a great version with the Beatles' " Get Back " tacked on the end. Powerhouse rock and roll. 

Elvis next did " Hound Dog " in a different tempo... not the Mama Thornton tempo he performed it in before, but in a swing tempo... it was gritty. After two or three verses, he looked back the band and said " Change Dogs. " Then came the first two verses in the normal tempo. At the finish, he yelled, " You ain't never caught a rabbit ".... walked around the stage ( as if in a parade ) waited a full ten seconds or so, and finished, "And you ain't no friend of mine. "

Next came " Bridge Over Troubled Water. " I can add nothing to say about this song that already hasn't been said. It was made for Elvis to sing, and he gives it his all. 

" I Can't Stop Loving You " was really rocking. Elvis swayed right to left across the stage with the mood and tempo of the song. You could tell this song had been planned for the tour by the new horn arrangement. ( Once again, Elvis used a small horn section... even smaller than on the 1971 fall tour ). Elvis was strong on this and did the extended ending... " In dreams of yester- -yester --yesterday. "  

At the end of the song, Elvis went over to someone at the end of the stage and took his hat and put it on. It was a old-fashioned thing and Elvis did kind of a visual James Cagney thing. Then he pointed at Burton and " Suspicious Minds " was struck. It was an exceptional version. The slow section in the middle was taken agonizingly slow with Elvis down on his knees pleading with the crowd. This was certainly a power-packed version although the " karate bit " at the end was noticably shortened. At one point, when the song was taken down to the soft verse, Elvis sang " I hope the suit don't tear, baby. " The crowd was quite receptive on this song.   

Elvis then introduced the group. "Johnny B. Goode " was next. This wasn't as good as I had heard him do it this past summer. It was taken at too fast a tempo, losing some of the feeling and drive. Burton's guitar, as usual, was an inspiration to Chuck Berry, or anybody  that does this song. 

Next came a surprise. Elvis went over to the stand by Charlie Hodge, and picked up a sheet of paper with lyrics on it. He performed a beautiful version of " ForThe Good Times, " a song that was a big hit for Ray Price this past year. Elvis was outstanding on this one. Steve Toli made a tape of the show, and when this song came on, the start of the song is blotted out by Steve's oooh, oooh! Elvis sang the bridge, " A-lay-a-your -head upon my pillow... " He made the song fit his style. I hope we get to hear this on record by Elvis in the future.   

Photographer unknown Detroit, MI.  April 6, 1972

"An American Trilogy " was next on the program. People who saw Elvis do this in Vegas told me how great it was... but they couldn't describe Elvis' rendition of this any better than I can. You have to hear it. The record is great, but in person it takes on a new dimension as Elvis' performance of the song is really a sight to behold. He sings the chorus " Glory, glory hallelujah " kind of bluesy, with movements to go with the band accents. "All My Trials " was very touching. When the flute solo came, Elvis kind of bowed his head. Then the build up, with the trumpet section standing. All I can say is that if Elvis had sung this song at the time of the Civil War, the South would have won. So kind of inspiration. During the part of the song where Elvis was bowing his head, some fan threw a shoe on stage. It landed right at Elvis' feet. He didn't flinch or move a muscle... but at the end of the song, he picked it up and heaved it way back to the end of the auditorium. The crowd was simply going bananas. A banner reading " We love you, Elvis " had fallen down onto the stage. Elvis picked it up and wrapped it around his head. But I noticed that all the banners, teddy bears, etc. that were given to Elvis or thrown on stage were kept. 

Next, Elvis sang " Funny How Time Slips Away. " When he sang, " Gotta go now, " the crowd begged him " Noooooo, " in unison. He chuckled to himself and said ( loud enough to be picked up by the mike ) " Man, Detroit is crazy. "

Unlike most concerts where the crowd is responsive at the beginning, and then stowly dies down... the applause and screams were just as loud, if not louder, at the end of the show as when Elvis first walked on stage. 

I know I make a lot of references to it, but Burton's guitar was amazing on " Funny How Time Slips Away. " He was playing some blues runs that sounded like a funky Les Paul. Elvis hit some high falsetto notes in the song, and ended it with low bass notes, reaching way down. Elvis' version on the " Elvis Country " LP is only a piece of plastic when compared to his " stage " version. 

"Can't Help Falling In Love " was greated with a tremendous ovation. When Elvis sang, " Shall I stay... " the crowd begged him, more, more. Detroit loved Elvis and Elvis loved working again in Detroit. Charlie put his cape back on him and he posed for photos at all sides of the stage before leaving. I was sitting on an aisle seat and throughout the concert, people were CONSTANTLY rushing towards the stage. The police force ( which I estimate to be about three times the size of his last Detroit appaarance ) had their hands full the whole night long. 

In Vegas, it is quite common for Elvis to receive a standing ovation for an exceptional performance on a song or a show. But I have never seen an entire arena of 17,000 or 18,000 people give a standing ovation as they did at the conclusion of "An American Trilogy " and again when Elvis left the stage. To say that Elvis went over well in Detroit would be as much of an understatement as saying that the sun is hot or water is wet. Elvis CONQUERED Detroit.   

Sean Shaver Detroit, MI.  April 6, 1972

When I think back to how Elvis " moved " in Vegas during his August, 1969 stint... it is easy to see he is taming his movements down little by little each tour or Vegas appearance. But, in all honesty, I cannot say that his performance is suffering because of it. His voice gets better and better and better and BETTER! I've said this before, but " I don't really think Elvis has reached his peak vocally! " He continues to amaze me just as much as when I first heard him in 1956. Some Elvis fans collect photos, some are movie freaks ( seeing some films as much as 100 times ), some are attracted to him because of his looks ( female-type ), some because of the way he has continued to follow his life-style and not be changed by those around him... But for me, the main attraction about Elvis has always, and will always be his singing, and his unique style of entertaining. And the remarkable thing is that he keeps improving. 

Tom Diskin said that the night before, in Buffalo, Elvis broke all attendance records. He did the same here. I'm sure the rest of the tour will be just as successful. He doesn't miss. I sincerely hope that all of Elvis' fans get to see him in concert, somewhere, sometime. The star continues to burn brightly.

Originally published in Strictly Elvis No. 50

Relevant links on this website :

- 1972-8

- 1972-11

- 1972-14

- 1972-16

- 1972-17