Sweltering Solstice Vol. 1
CONCERT DATE: June 23, 1974 Philadelphia, PA.
Elvis Returns - Riding On His Laurels
By Jonathan Takiff
Philadelphia Daily News
June 24, 1974
From the hawkers pushing "autographed scarfs" ($7.50) and "Picasso-like" color photo albums ($3) on the promenade, to the almost perfunctory performance on the Spectrum's stage, Elvis Presley's return to Philadelphia yesterday seemed more a triumph of carnival come on and nostalgic "good vibes" than of convincing artistry.
Still selling his predictable package of sex, sensationalism and country rock, the 39-year-old Presley packed the 19,000 seat hall for two performances 2:30 and 8:30 p.m.
His solid core of fans, most in the 30-to-50 year range, was predictably appreciative, but seldom did you sense an atmosphere of high electricity and raw enthusiam that marked Presley's reception in past appearances.
ELVIS IS no longer the naive country boy singing his out his heart and soul, but instead a slick, show biz phenomenon, riding out on his past accomplishments, teating the whole affair of performing and adulation as one big joke (or with) his audience.
A brass-heavy orchestra, a literal army of back-up singers (The Stamps, Sweet Inspirations and his latest addition The voice trio) can hardly disguise the fact that Elvis lyrical readings now lack expression or drama.
Breaking up the sanctity of "Amen" with a shimmy, or changing the lyric of Mickey Newbury's poignant "America Trilogy" from "Dixieland" to "Disneyland" seems to be Elvis' way of saying we'll buy anything.
THE FOULEST, or funniest, joke Elvis plays, depending on your point of view, is the manner in which the Hounddog cruelly teases his ringsiders for the blessing of a dropped scarf - first wipping the cloths across his forehead, chest and then (urgh) under his arms, before dangling the precious commodity over the sea of despeerately outstretched hands. Talk about sado-masochism.
After playing the public sex symbol since 1956, knowing that every twitch of the knee will provoke a scream, that every record - some good, some mediocre - will sell with equal speed, you can't blame Elvis for being a wee bit jaded.
Nor, realistically, can he be denied the option to slow down, let it all hang out a little looser. The baby face and his tightly corseted jumpsuit (peacock design on white ) couldn't disguise the fact that Elvis now displays a midle-age paunch.
So he cuts out most of the karate kicks, lets J.D. Sumner hit the low keys and Kathy Westmoreland handle the high ones, allows his cocky presence and trademarked resonant tones to suffice.
COMING ON to the pretentious strains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra," Presley's hour-long, 21-song stage session was much the same mix of old hits and "cover versions" heard at his last Spectrum appearance in November 1971.
Not too surprisingly, Elvis put out th emost for the newer additions to his act - a funky, down-home rendering of "Polk Salad Annie," driven by James Burton' guitar and a better-than=average arrangement; Elvis' almost gospelish, hand-clapping treatment of Olivia Newton-John's "Let Me Be There"; and his sultry, hip-grinding treatment of "Fever" tantalized with Eonnie Tutt's strip-tease drumming.
Sound and lighting were slick throughout.