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Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:24 am

I know some people will claim that Elvis' shows in July / August, 1969 were simply the best. And others will profess a love for the January / February, 1970 shows. And even others will claim that Elvis was at his peak in August, 1970 for the filming of TTWII. But I think history shows that the Madison Square Garden performances may be the peak of Elvis' live shows. In '69, there are flaws in the shows. Elvis continually rambled on with a monologue about his career and continually included numbers such as "Yesterday / Hey Jude" and "Memories" that any two-bit lounge singer could have been doing. One of the problems that also plagues the February '70 live recordings is that Elvis continually coughs between performances and these recordings show too that Elvis had too much to say. The simple fact that a complete show from either these first two engagements or for that matter the August, 1970 engagement were never released intact until posthumously show how flawed portions of these shows really were. The thing I love about the two Madison Square Garden shows is that pretty much for just over an hour, Elvis just simply sang. Very little dialogue and Elvis was vocally on top of his game. He probably could have thrown in some differerent rockers in the oldies medley such as "One Night" or "A Big Hunk O' Love" but even this probably can be excused simply due to the fact that most of the oldies done were ones he had done on network television in New York fifteen years earlier in 1956-57. The Madison Square Garden shows are probably as close to flawless performances as you'll ever get from Elvis. You pretty much got a bit of everything out of Elvis in these shows. Sun-era Elvis? Check. A smattering of the early hits from '56-57? Check. Folk music? Check. Contemporary Rock? Check. Broadway showtunes? Check. A selection of Elvis' more recent hits and singles. Check. Hawaiian music? Check. Country music? Check. Rhythm & Blues? Check. That's why we call him "King" and New York described him as a prince.

Bring on "Prince From Another Planet."

Daryl

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:49 am

I saw Elvis in 1969. I saw 2 shows on tour in Nov. 1970. I saw one show in Nov. 1972. All were great but 1969 wins.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:25 am

Jan. 26, 1970 maybe just about THE best concert performance Elvis ever gave.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:49 am

It's a great debate, which is better --> Elvis in '69, Elvis in early '70, Elvis in August '70, Elvis in April '72, Elvis in June '72 or Elvis even in Aloha in January '73.

I've often wondered if any noted Broadway playwrighters heard Elvis' version of "The Impossible Dream" on the Garden album and considered having Elvis star on Broadway. Felton, often being at those shows in late '70 when Elvis first incorporated "The Impossible Dream" into his set list, should have thought of having Elvis do a full LP of Broadway musical showtunes. They already had one in the can with "You'll Never Walk Alon," which didn't appear on an album until 1971 and probably easily could have gotten Elvis to do another, "If I Loved You" in the studio. Elvis could have done a few songs from "The Student Prince" a favorite of Elvis and Priscilla. An album like that could have opened a lot of doors for Elvis, both musically and as an actor.

Daryl

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:24 am

Daryl wrote:It's a great debate, which is better --> Elvis in '69, Elvis in early '70, Elvis in August '70, Elvis in April '72, Elvis in June '72 or Elvis even in Aloha in January '73.

I've often wondered if any noted Broadway playwrighters heard Elvis' version of "The Impossible Dream" on the Garden album and considered having Elvis star on Broadway. Felton, often being at those shows in late '70 when Elvis first incorporated "The Impossible Dream" into his set list, should have thought of having Elvis do a full LP of Broadway musical showtunes. They already had one in the can with "You'll Never Walk Alon," which didn't appear on an album until 1971 and probably easily could have gotten Elvis to do another, "If I Loved You" in the studio. Elvis could have done a few songs from "The Student Prince" a favorite of Elvis and Priscilla. An album like that could have opened a lot of doors for Elvis, both musically and as an actor.

Daryl


As much as I love The Student Prince, the thought of Elvis following up Elvis Country with Elvis sings Operetta is not one that I or many fans would relish. The Impossibile Dream is a good vehicle for Presley's sense of the dramatic and as with If I Can Dream, he manages to instil the non-religious lyric with a gospel sensibility. An album of Elvis at the piano, singing songs such as If I Loved You may well have worked better around 1966 than the early 1970s. His voice had more control at that point, as the HGTA sessions show. The fear in 1971 or 1972 would have been that every song would turn into a vehicle for Elvis's current penchant for bellowing his way through songs.

I don't share your views of the 1969 and 1970 shows. For the most part, the oldies were still being sung with the respect they deserve, but by 1972 they were simply throwaways for the most part. And much of Presley's charisma comes from his onstage banter in these earlier seasons. By 1972 the show may have become a well-oiled, professional machine, but the sheer joy of being on stage and breaking away from the movie treadmill that is present in 1969/70 has already gone by this point.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:59 am

For me there's not much debate. He was great that Saturday at Madison Square Garden but he was at his best in 1969 and early 1970. Great as that opening show was in January, 1970, I think I like the closing show more. That might be the greater debate.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:03 am

There's different merits in all of them. The '69 shows have that edge, not quite at the level of the '68 sitdown and standup shows but really close. However, the vocal tones are not as rich as they were in 1970. The winter engagement in 1970 was a step forward in repertoire, not because the songs chosen for the '69 gig lacked anything, but because this was the engagement that firmly placed Elvis in the present. With interpretations of his own recent slew hits and a cast of remakes that were for the large part extremely contemporary Elvis showed himself to be not a legend recreating the past, but a modern artist moving with and living in his times. The August shows show on some of the oldies Elvis' boredom with some of those songs, although many still received fine treatment "Blue Suede Shoes," "All Shook Up," "One Night," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Can't Help Falling in Love," etc. It is these shows I pick as the best because the voice is there, maybe a pure and rich as it ever was in Elvis' later period. There is astonishing variety in the material, somewhat because of the filming of the show, the mix between old and new is perfectly balanced. And although the edge has been lost on some oldies, the show's have a lot of the '69 edge, spontaneity, intimacy and humor but with a better sense of showmanship and style.

The '72 shows are a demonstration of power. Elvis less wanted to entertain his audience than overwhelm them. And there is definite merit to this approach. When Elvis comes out "That's All Right Mama" and "Proud Mary" it's a definite bang, because of the speed because of Elvis' outfits, because the theme from 2001 has built our expectation of greatness. And say what you will about the oldies, but the speed helps them in this context as does the overall presentation. Going from hit to hit leaves the audience breathless. And then the bit with "Hound Dog" is masterful as after giving the audience what it wants, Elvis teases them and then wham gives what they want when they least expect it. However, a lot of the musicality of Elvis' performance is lost, as is, and this is the darn shame a lot of the spontaneity. I mean there are still musical moments like "Never Been to Spain" and the amazing Saturday reading of "I Can't Stop Loving You" IMO a legit candidate for Elvis' finest musical moment of the '70s. But that sense of a singer of songs, of an old friend on stage has been lost in favor of a "Prince from Another Planet" just rolling over us. And for my ears, the intimate musician and friend is tastier than the Sun God, although as I said the latter approach has definite merit. The 1969/1970 Elvis moved us as often as he excited us and I don't think you can say the same thing about Sun God Elvis. (Again not that excitement is something to sneeze at.)

Ironically, for the rest of his career when he was on, Elvis would try and find a balance between the Sun God and the intimate musician, but it was an extremely difficult task particularly because due to his physical decline Elvis' talents were often not quite up to portraying the Sun God. As a result, it became a lot harder to forgive the thrown away oldies.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:15 am

Why limit it to '69 and after? First of all, you are leaving out June 1968, and for those who were there, it was indeed LIVE! (Heck, for those who weren't there, it appears live enough to me.) No matter the technicalities, he was in front of an audience.

So, I would say it's a contest between one of the June 27, 1968 shows, the one early '60s show we have (unfortunately), the show in in '56 in Little Rock, or the bootleg of August 3, 1969. I would say the audience recording of the Astrodome in '70 is very exciting! (Even if the sound quality sucks.) The Hayride show is excellent, but the Arkansas show is better, just absolutely thrilling.

Those, to me, are the best, period. I like him raw, not cooked. And I like the '69 monologues! (They wanted him to talk in '68! So in '69, he REALLY talked, and it was not only a lot of fun, but revelatory, too.)

For me, I'd have to pick June 27, 1968, 8:00 PM show as the best show of his career. No contest. Everything else, no matter how great, cannot come close. It's beyond rational explanation, almost. (The '68 rehearsals would be next, but they are not live performances.)

rjm

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 12:20 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
Daryl wrote:It's a great debate, which is better --> Elvis in '69, Elvis in early '70, Elvis in August '70, Elvis in April '72, Elvis in June '72 or Elvis even in Aloha in January '73.

I've often wondered if any noted Broadway playwrighters heard Elvis' version of "The Impossible Dream" on the Garden album and considered having Elvis star on Broadway. Felton, often being at those shows in late '70 when Elvis first incorporated "The Impossible Dream" into his set list, should have thought of having Elvis do a full LP of Broadway musical showtunes. They already had one in the can with "You'll Never Walk Alon," which didn't appear on an album until 1971 and probably easily could have gotten Elvis to do another, "If I Loved You" in the studio. Elvis could have done a few songs from "The Student Prince" a favorite of Elvis and Priscilla. An album like that could have opened a lot of doors for Elvis, both musically and as an actor.

Daryl


As much as I love The Student Prince, the thought of Elvis following up Elvis Country with Elvis sings Operetta is not one that I or many fans would relish. The Impossibile Dream is a good vehicle for Presley's sense of the dramatic and as with If I Can Dream, he manages to instil the non-religious lyric with a gospel sensibility. An album of Elvis at the piano, singing songs such as If I Loved You may well have worked better around 1966 than the early 1970s. His voice had more control at that point, as the HGTA sessions show. The fear in 1971 or 1972 would have been that every song would turn into a vehicle for Elvis's current penchant for bellowing his way through songs.

I don't share your views of the 1969 and 1970 shows. For the most part, the oldies were still being sung with the respect they deserve, but by 1972 they were simply throwaways for the most part. And much of Presley's charisma comes from his onstage banter in these earlier seasons. By 1972 the show may have become a well-oiled, professional machine, but the sheer joy of being on stage and breaking away from the movie treadmill that is present in 1969/70 has already gone by this point.


agree there Peter

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:55 pm

Daryl wrote:I know some people will claim that Elvis' shows in July / August, 1969 were simply the best. And others will profess a love for the January / February, 1970 shows. And even others will claim that Elvis was at his peak in August, 1970 for the filming of TTWII. But I think history shows that the Madison Square Garden performances may be the peak of Elvis' live shows.

History? What history?

1969 and 1970 are rightfully praised for the generally high standard Elvis employed on each and every song in his set. His vocals were dedicated, urgent and almost always spot-on. His moves were amazing to watch. By 1972, we were well into half-speed vocals, rushed tempos and '50s throwaways. His movements were being scaled back. All you need are eyes and ears.

That said, the New York shows in 1972 do have a great energy, at least in part because Elvis knew the New York crowd had a low tolerance for bulls'hit. That's why they booed comedian Jackie Kahane off the stage on the opening night of the three-day stand.

Daryl wrote:I've often wondered if any noted Broadway playwrighters heard Elvis' version of "The Impossible Dream" on the Garden album and considered having Elvis star on Broadway.

You're kidding, right?

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:01 pm

In all honesty I think that Elvis was never again in such a
top notch condition as he was back in 1969. He was hungry..
.he was raw.....he was dirty..he was sexy..he was soft..and he
enjoyed every single tone he sang one thousand times..just listen to
Suspicious Minds and yess..Can`t Help Falling In Love.
and compare to MSG and you know what i mean..

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:45 pm

likethebike wrote:The '72 shows are a demonstration of power. Elvis less wanted to entertain his audience than overwhelm them. And there is definite merit to this approach. When Elvis comes out "That's All Right Mama" and "Proud Mary" it's a definite bang, because of the speed because of Elvis' outfits, because the theme from 2001 has built our expectation of greatness. And say what you will about the oldies, but the speed helps them in this context as does the overall presentation. Going from hit to hit leaves the audience breathless. And then the bit with "Hound Dog" is masterful as after giving the audience what it wants, Elvis teases them and then wham gives what they want when they least expect it.

I like that.

Elvis was never better than he was during those three Vegas seasons in '69 and '70. However, I still prefer the shows from 1972 over any other, preferably the June shows from the Garden. You've summed up why I feel that way.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:40 pm

Why compare the shows? And why care about what which shows others like? The shows through Elvis's career were different and I enjoy them because of that. Sometimes I want to listen to the Garden shows from '72, other times I enjoy the ones from '70. Or maybe Pittsburgh '76 or EIC '77. YES, EIC in 1977...! 8)

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:45 am

Xaykev wrote:Why compare the shows? And why care about what which shows others like? The shows through Elvis's career were different and I enjoy them because of that. Sometimes I want to listen to the Garden shows from '72, other times I enjoy the ones from '70. Or maybe Pittsburgh '76 or EIC '77. YES, EIC in 1977...! 8)

A totally enjoyable experience indeed!

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=73381

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:02 am

The only person whose expectation to see him, or her, or they, (before or during an introduction like the 2001 Oddisey ) was grander than the sound of that overture itself was Elvis Presley. And once you saw him enter the stage, he was grander than the overture, which in itself is incredible. You had to be there. I know, I was there on November 10, 1971.

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:15 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Daryl wrote:I know some people will claim that Elvis' shows in July / August, 1969 were simply the best. And others will profess a love for the January / February, 1970 shows. And even others will claim that Elvis was at his peak in August, 1970 for the filming of TTWII. But I think history shows that the Madison Square Garden performances may be the peak of Elvis' live shows.

History? What history?

1969 and 1970 are rightfully praised for the generally high standard Elvis employed on each and every song in his set. His vocals were dedicated, urgent and almost always spot-on. His moves were amazing to watch. By 1972, we were well into half-speed vocals, rushed tempos and '50s throwaways. His movements were being scaled back. All you need are eyes and ears.

That said, the New York shows in 1972 do have a great energy, at least in part because Elvis knew the New York crowd had a low tolerance for bulls'hit. That's why they booed comedian Jackie Kahane off the stage on the opening night of the three-day stand.

Daryl wrote:I've often wondered if any noted Broadway playwrighters heard Elvis' version of "The Impossible Dream" on the Garden album and considered having Elvis star on Broadway.

You're kidding, right?


Are you kidding? Don't get me wrong, I love the August '69 shows, the February '70 and the August '70 shows as much as anyone. I don't necessarily agree with your assessment that Elvis employed a high standard on each and every song in July / August, 1969. There are a few turkeys to be found. The monologues drag on and on. Look no further for turkeys than "Memories" and the Beatles' medley of "Yesterday / Hey Jude." For the most part, the '69 shows are very, very good, but like I said there are some exceptions. You mentioned the half-speed vocals and rushed tempos and the '50's throwaways. I think some of those attributes in Elvis' stage show are present as early as August '70. I think what makes MSG so great is that Elvis played to all facets of his fans, the old, the young and everything in between. Yes, it's a bit irritating that Elvis rushed through some of the oldies in '72, but would people, or for that matter Elvis have wanted to do simply an entire show of oldies or on the opposite end of the spectrum, an entire show of all newer material. I'm sure Elvis had a pretty good pulse on his fans' tastes. Throwing in "The Impossible Dream" in the evening show just a short trip from Broadway. Knowing full well that there were going to be people in the audience of a certain age demographic that would have at the very least expected him to perform some of the songs he performed for the likes of the Dorsey, Berle, Allen and Sullivan television program watchers nearly 15 years earlier. The oldies Elvis does at MSG are very much reflective of the '56-57 years with the likes of "Heartbreak Hotel," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel," "Love Me Tender," "Love Me," "All Shook Up," and "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear." There was a certain nostalgia factor to the MSG shows but at the same time the setlists Elvis gave at MSG showed that he was still a very much active contemporary force in popular and rock music. The fact is that for both the "In Person" and the "On Stage February, 1970" albums, RCA was forced to pull from a selection of live show recordings, not just one. If 1969 and 1970 were so great, and don't misinterpret what I'm saying (They're great as well), why didn't RCA just record one show and put it out in both of those instances. I'm sorry but I think Elvis was more offended back in '56-'57 by the New York and for that matter the national media of the reaction to his music and stage movements than he ever was by bombing in Las Vegas in April / May, 1956. Accusing Elvis of being vulgar would hurt more on a personal level than anything a disinterested Vegas crowd could ever dish out. And to finally have the New York media in the palm of his hand, like he did in the press conference, probably meant more to him than any excited Las Vegas crowd could ever do for him.

Daryl

Re: Stage Presentation / Repertoire / Vocal - Great Debate

Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:51 am

Daryl wrote:Are you kidding? Don't get me wrong, I love the August '69 shows, the February '70 and the August '70 shows as much as anyone. I don't necessarily agree with your assessment that Elvis employed a high standard on each and every song in July / August, 1969.

OK, I get it now. This entire topic is a wind-up. Ha-ha, funny!