WHAT NOW MY LOVE
This CD contains an audience recording of the Las Vegas closing show from the 23rd February 1973. This engagement must have seemed a huge anti-climax after his successful satellite show in January, which served to consolidate his position as a worldwide performer. To make matters even worse, he became ill with a throat infection on the 31st January, causing him to cancel many shows and suffered further indignity on the 18th February, when several members of the audience breached the stage and threatened a violent confrontation. Under these circumstances, I’m sure this closing show couldn’t have come round fast enough.
This CD is the first release by the X Entertainment label and features very basic artwork, consisting of a simple fold over cover, with no further photos or narrative within. The sound quality is no more than average for an audience recording but is quite clear, allowing most of the dialogue to be easily heard, although it is processed from a lower level source with a slight hiss apparent.
The CD opens to the strains of 2001, followed by an energetic and focussed See See Rider, sounding very similar to his performance on the Aloha show. Afterwards he says “Thank you very much, you’re a beautiful audience…. I can tell that already….heavyweights!” possibly referring to the large number of celebrities present. After one Well, he starts I Got A Woman and during the Amen ending, J D Sumner is instructed to “Take it down,” preceding his regular slide down the vocal scale. Amidst the laughing and applause, Elvis jokingly exclaims “Oh do it again son…please do it again” in a mocking tone, suggesting that he was in an upbeat and humorous mood this evening.
The next song, Love Me Tender, features various ad-libs and missed lyrics due to the distraction from the girls at the ringside, which may also account for the first chord of You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me being repeated no less than five times, before he eventually decides to sing it. During this song, he calls out “Sing it baby,” to highlight Kathy Westmoreland’s high voice accompaniment, which causes her to break up laughing. Steamroller Blues is performed at a faster tempo than on the Aloha show, but with apparently no less enthusiasm, as Elvis can be heard calling out “Play the blues son, C’mon hold it down,” together with further shouts of encouragement during the guitar solo itself. You Gave Me A Mountain, which follows, is also well sung and received with enthusiastic shouts and whistles, followed by a fun version of Fever featuring numerous asides and comments.
After this, he says “I’d like to do a medley of Polish folk songs for you….there are people here who thought they were when I first started,” leading to more amusing banter. Love Me is performed next as the usual scarf giving number, then a short version of Blue Suede Shoes, lasting barely a minute. For some reason, this prompts someone in the audience to shout out “You’re not Carl Perkins, you’re Elvis Presley,” leading to several requests for Hound Dog. Elvis responds with “I’m getting ready to get it on son, just hang loose back there” and continues with an extended amusing monologue, prior to a two speed version of the song itself. However it turns out to be nothing more than the usual crowd pleaser, with Elvis mumbling and even missing out lyrics.
Nothing we have heard yet, therefore, prepares us for his treatment of the next song—What Now My Love. It starts off in the usual fashion, until he sings the words “And all my hopes (with a sigh) into bits of clay”, where he seems to slip into his own private world, causing him to fall behind the melody and speak the lyrics, with dramatic emphasis on selected words, as if overcome with emotion. For the line ‘Stripped of my heart, my soul’ his voice drops to a dramatic whisper and his backing singers end up singing the next verse, with Elvis speaking the lyrics, similar to his treatment of Softly As I Leave You in later years. He then proceeds to shout the lines “WHAT NOW MY LOVE!….NOW THAT YOU’RE GONE!” and later “NO-ONE WOULD CARE!---no-one would cry, if I should live or… (dramatic pause with emphasis) DIE!” After this, the song ends normally and he duly receives a thirty second ovation for this extraordinary performance. He then decides to reprise the ending, but unfortunately misses his cue to begin singing. After apologising to Joe Guercio, the ending is repeated, with Elvis giving a stronger vocal performance of the final chorus.
His emotional outpouring in this song is totally unexpected from his previous good mood and is undoubtedly his most dramatic and personal interpretation of this number. Moreover, the reasons for it can only be speculated. From various sources, it appears that Elvis was particularly upset at this time over Priscilla’s relationship with Mike Stone (her former Karate instructor) and a row developed over access to Lisa Marie. Feelings were running so high that Elvis even considered hiring a hitman to have a contract put out on Mike Stone. Luckily this was not pursued, with Elvis instead requiring heavy sedation for several days prior to this show. These it seems, were the circumstances that influenced his extraordinary performance of this song here, which all speculation aside, makes compelling listening. This window into his private life is soon closed however, as immediately after this Elvis resumes his former mood without further comment.
Suspicious Minds is performed next and sounds to be an energetic version from various comments made to Ronnie Tutt.The group and celebrity introductions follow, during which we learn that Pierre Adidge (director of Elvis On Tour), Ed Parker (his karate instructor), Buzz Aldrin (the astronaut), Mama Cass, Dave Clark, Ernest Borgnine and George Hamilton are all present, together with Ann Margaret (his former co-star in Viva Las Vegas). A sincere version of I’ll Remember You is performed after this, followed by I Can’t Stop Loving You, featuring several (teasing?) attempts to limber up for the demanding ending. Sadly, despite the buildup, he still doesn’t manage to reach as high as he usually does on this song. However, he has no difficulty on American Trilogy, which receives a good performance.
After this, the flute player is mentioned for having played the solo in this song no less than 125 times previously, without mistake and he goes on to inform the audience that the trumpet players sometimes blow their trumpets so hard, they split their lips. Finally, he announces that his bass player, Jerry Scheff, is leaving the group and returning to Canada, adding “He’s been with me for four years and he’s fantastic.” Can’t Help Falling In Love follows, with an extended instrumental introduction, as he again misses his cue. This closing number also suffers from various missed lyrics, with the final chorus seemingly sung by his backing singers on their own.
In conclusion, this is an interesting closing show from a difficult season for Elvis. All songs are sung well enough, although his voice sounds strained on occasion, giving the impression that he had still not yet fully recovered from the throat infection, which plagued this engagement. However the real interest of this show is a unique interpretation of What Now My Love, which is sung with a sense of genuine despair, exposing his inner turmoil during this period. Further interest arises from his talkative manner throughout, which leads to over four minutes of celebrity introductions, including his old flame Ann Margaret. In short this is an entertaining and worthwhile show which is recommended, providing you are willing to accept the obvious limitations in sound quality owing to its source. For many, I would imagine that the interest here outweighs this consideration.
SOUND RATING **-
Reviewed by Mike Sanders (UK)