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Elvis the concert brings out the magic

Cerritos, Cal., Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Jan. 30, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

CERRITOS, CA - At first, this idea sounded like just one more way to savagely capitalize on the King's legacy. "Elvis The Concert" is the nucleus of Presley's touring band and singers playing live, as he sings from a large video screen. But in spite of such expectations to the contrary, this unusual arrangement still brings out the magic of an Elvis concert.

Drawn primarily from the Elvis television special "Aloha From Hawaii" and the acclaimed concert documentary "That's The Way It Is," the late performer is captured while he still had more charisma than excess weight.

The irony was not lost when the other Elvis (Costello) was heard over the sound system before the show. Especially since former Presley lead guitarist James Burton has toured with both men. He is clearly the star instrumentalist on this tour, and is a featured soloist on many songs in the set, such as the rocking "Johnny B. Goode." At a few points, Burton could be seen on the big screen playing and looking much younger. Both the younger and the elder Burton made it look easy, with that same almost expressionless face.

The first half of the show featured highlights from Elvis late '60's and '70's period. Songs performed included "In The Ghetto" and "Just Pretend." Around about the middle of the show, three former members of his backing group The Imperials sang, "He Touched Me," an Elvis gospel favorite. It was after this song, though, that the night's only technical glitch appeared. This selection segued into Elvis singing "How Great Thou Art," but his vocals for the first few lines of the song were lost, forcing the musicians to mark time for a few minutes while this was fixed.

After the break, the female backing group Sweet Inspirations sang the song that originally won them their job in Presley's entourage, also called "Sweet Inspiration." Throughout the night, this quartet added lively body language and soulful singing to the concert.

Much of the last half of the show was comprised of Elvis hits from the '50's, including "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Hound Dog." This segment also featured Elvis doing "Love Me Tender," where the he did more kissing of female audience members than actual singing. Still, it was fun to watch as these female fans almost fainted at his touch.

Elvis concluded by singing "Can't Help Falling In Love," before Jim Murray of The Imperials jokingly proclaimed, "Elvis has left the building." He probably should have said, "Elvis' image has left the video screen," but why quibble.

Some might wrongly call this touring package capitalism at its worst, but think of it as watching an Elvis concert movie on a massive drive in screen, with the best damned stereo system in the world for the soundtrack.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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