This fabulous disc documents the August 24th dinner show, not the 23rd as
the cover states, in superb sound quality with gorgeous photos from that
month. It's the essential statement from this initial run in Las Vegas,
far superior to 'Opening Night 1969' (which wasn't, anyway). By the 24th
of August Elvis was incredibly confident and his performance of numbers
like "I Can't Stop Loving You", "I Got A Woman" and "Suspicious Minds" are
superb. It's worth mentioning that the band plays the shit out of the
songs, feeding off of Elvis' intensity. It's also worth noting that the
last two tracks seem to be lifted from the above-mentioned 'Opening Night
1969' (which was probably a show from August 1st), and I would guess that
DAE didn't have access to the same songs from the 24th. It doesn't matter!
The swinging "Runaway" (he ain't gonna do that falsetto part!) is different
to the one RCA/BMG keeps releasing over and over (where he laughs after
singing "I wonder where HE will stay"), and just as fun. It's so cool to
hear, at the beginning of the cd, a little bit of the band's pre-show
warming up, followed by the full-length "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't
Care" instrumental introduction. Many of the monologues are the ones
you've read quoted in the books, but it's fun to actually listen to them.
In contrast to the rambling, drug-influenced Elvis speeches of
August/September 1974, in August 1969 he sounds crazy and high but he was
simply being silly, I believe. The standout tune this night is his
blistering version of "Johnny B. Goode" (it's as much his story as
anyone's). James Burton was born to play those guitar licks! And Elvis'
vocal is SO intense! This may be the same as the version we've had since
the first official live record in 1969, but it sounds better in context
At the same time, given hindsight, you can see how Elvis was affected by
the big, brassy arrangements from the 1968 TV Special. And I mean in a bad
way. Just like on that show (the stand up "medley" segments reflect how
the 50's music was subtly designated as "that kid stuff"), two of the
greatest songs of his career, "Jailhouse Rock" and "Don't Be Cruel", are
shoved together in a medley! He never really did either song justice in
his later performing career. And as we know, very few of his classics from
the 1950's would be treated with the respect that he gave songs like "My
Way". Let's not forget too that this was Las Vegas, and several other
songs suffer from a Las Vegas arrangement, most notably "Love Me Tender"
and "In The Ghetto". He would still excite and do great shows in spite of
this right up until the end, but plying his craft in a place like Vegas
ultimately killed him as a creative, viable artist.
But I digress. As with all things Elvis, the drawbacks or disappointments
are nearly eliminated by his charisma and, in 1969, by his amazing energy
level. Despite it all, he rocks! And that's what Elvis Presley was all
about. Of all the privately released live discs out there, this is the
best one, right up there with 'Elvis Rocks Little Rock' for the perfect
snapshot of a time when it seemed anything was possible.
Sound rate ***