Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:48 pm
Review/Perspective of HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
I’m writing this part of review the day I ordered the CD. I have not heard the infamous show yet. I want to take you back to the summer of 1976 and my 13 year old perspective. I had seen Elvis twice (’73 & ’75) and in July of 1976 I had tickets to 2 other shows (Charleston WV and Lakeland Fla), the Lakeland show being exactly one week after this Houston concert. My main memory of the Lakeland show was that he was happy and all smiles.
I love the ’76 shows, it was of my time. Being born in 1963, the “50’s Elvis” and the “60’s Hollywood Elvis” seemed like 2 different artists than the one I was into and experiencing in the 70’s. Of course I love them all, but this was here and NOW and I loved being a part of it. I’d mentioned in other posts that by the summer of ’76 I had about 5 bootlegs and cassettes of shows by then, most recent was the Bloomington IN show from May. So I knew what to expect (with great anticipation!)
I never understood the “Fat and 40” bashing. What did that have anything to do with the music? Nobody bashes Elton, Aretha or B.B. today; they are as great as ever. I’m aware that some folks saw Elvis as a skinny rebel teenager or a Hollywood sex symbol. But to me, even at 13, Elvis was a maturing artist that got better at his craft of with age. I love the bombastic stuff (Hurt, HGTA, the endings of CHFIL).
The ’76 shows were refreshing and different (but not necessarily better) than the previous 2 shows I’d seen. Here’s what was new if you were attending an Elvis show in the Bicentennial Year:
1). An extended Amen after I GOT A WOMAN.
(Honestly, I skip it now, but in the Civic Center, JD’s “Dive Bomb” bit was an experience, you could feel your ribs vibrate).
2). The Guitar Toss – I thought this was cool, (very Rock n Roll).
3). IF YOU LOVE ME LET ME KNOW.
This was always perplexing to me…of all the great 70’s material to cover; doing Olivia’s LET ME BE THERE (my all-time favorite version is on FTD’s DIXIELAND ROCKS) was one thing, but now doing a 2nd cover of hers???? But it was cool because, hey, it was rare and unreleased (at the time).
4). YOU GAVE ME A MOUNTAIN.
Love this, back in the set after including it in maybe only 30 shows over the last 2 years.
5). AND I LOVE YOU SO.
The big surprise of the night was this. Having just released the BOULEVARD LP, I wasn’t expecting something from last year’s TODAY LP.
6). AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL.
ALWAYS a treat that year!
7). The intros-
Believe it or not, these were fun (at the time), Elvis stood back like a proud parent. So we get EARLY MORNING RAIN, SCHOOL DAYS sometimes JOHNNY BE GOOD…and…
8. LOVE LETTERS
Before social networking, this was the mode of communication in school. I was getting LOVE LETTERS at the time from my girlfriend in Jr. High (who 30 years later became my wife). Although not “bombastic” this and AND I LOVE YOU SO are my favorites (and I’m a Rock-n-Roller at heart)…go figure? I love these songs and they are always done well! (I hate to admit it, but they work well, even under medication).
This is always great!!! Maybe you had to be there, but Elvis’s shows were as loud as any WHO or LED ZEP concert. (I’ve seen over 310 concerts).
Ok, there you go, 9 reasons why it was fun to go see Elvis in 1976. Fast forward to right now, when we’ve had 40 years of listening to most Elvis shows at our fingertips…and yes, the repetitious ’76-’77 shows tend to get pedestrian. Some are sad. But I refuse to let my wiser 50 year-old-self get in the way of the fun and enjoyment I had as my 13 year-old-self.
I’m going out on a limb now (maybe with my rose colored glasses) and suggest (without hearing yet) that this concert isn’t as bad as it’s hype over the last 38. Is it really the WORST SHOW EVER??? I’m thinking that it might be just the “standard” sluggish, out of breath shows that marred some of the summer of ’76 shows and no different than any of the others that we are aware of (Unfortunately that comes across as if being mediocre was OK?). The only different is Claybool’s infamous article. Elvis had gotten bad reviews and each one would still say that ‘AMERICA and HURT were the highlights.’ The contender for the “worst show” (to me) would have no highlights and have omissions in the set list (short shows).
Musically speaking, I don’t have a problem with College Park, Vegas Closings ’73 and ’74, and Baltimore ’77. For some reason they are very interesting to me, maybe I’m just rootin’ for the underdog. I just listened to 8/1/76 Hampton Rds earlier this year and LOVED it. Even the performances in Omaha ‘77 I enjoy…until he starts to talk.
So what makes a bad show? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s his slurred speech and the between song ramblings (’74) that seems to make or break the way we feel about a show. It’s when he talks that is the tell-tell sign of his state of mind on any give show.
I can’t put my finger on it, all these “bad shows” are very interesting to me; there is the underdog aspect…(I hope he can pull it off)…maybe it’s nostalgia – these shows were “of my time” and I never once wished he’d go back in time and be 1969 all over again. I wanted new, different, more. Unfortunately, I kinda got my wish…what I loved about the ’76 shows never progressed, only became pail repetitions.
Waiting patiently for the CD to arrive…
Got it. I can’t really add anything new that hasn’t already been said. Even the liner notes question (as I have above) if it truly is “the worst show.” I was going to review song-by-song, but it's the standard set list (hey, NO LOVE LETTERS?!?!?!?). He sometimes sounds like he’s half a step behind the band. The sluggishness in his speech isn't so much "Ladish&genalmn" that's bad, sometimes it's more like one who's had a stroke (heavily medicated none the less). They really should have called the CD “Having Fun with the Girls in the Front Row.” They certainly had a night to remember. Again it’s the between song banter that reveals the most. Musically and sound wise it’s enjoyable. I can’t put my finger on “the worst show”, (I enjoy collecting and listening to Elvis shows). Is it "the worst EVER?" (such harsh words) - its certainly falls in the category as one of the drug-addled performances. I can’t call it yet, but unfortunately, "worst" was yet to come in 1977. But in Lakeland a week later, he was great!! I've been more disappointed about other shows/CDs, this one has a legend and mythology all its own. My wife summed it up best…”it’s not that bad, but you can tell something is wrong”.
Sat Aug 29, 2015 3:27 pm
he sings the right notes but he sounds like he's about to fall asleep
Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:10 am
Thanks Brad for a very interesting post. I appreciate your honest review. You are so correct when you speak of the "dive bomb" routine and the Introductions. When you were there in concert they didn't seem that bad. In fact, it was entertaining. I realize what it must sound like to those who didn't have the opportunity to see Elvis live and only have the CD all of these years removed to base their opinion. Thanks again.