Elvis Presley In Concert - Sydney, Australia
"High energy Elvis rock 'n' roll shakes Sydney!"
by Nigel Patterson
In 1999 Elvis and Pearl Jam toured Australia. Elvis outsold Pearl Jam.....In 2002 Pearl Jam didn't tour and Elvis was cancelled.....In 2006 both Elvis and Pearl Jam are back "downunder"!
EIN members attended all five performances of Elvis Presley In Concert around Australia. More than 20 EIN members were in the audience for the final Aussie show in Sydney on Saturday 14 October 2006.
EIN's Nigel Patterson looks back on a memorable evening at a show comprising footage principally from Aloha and the 2000 release of That's The Way It Is (TTWII). With nearly 35 classic Elvis audio-visual recordings the concert was a sensory delight.
That's All Right, Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel and Heartbreak Hotel. This was TTWII territory and it was continued with Blue Suede Shoes, All Shook Up and a cleverly edited version of Love Me Tender (with Elvis' walk into the audience excised).
Due to large crowds lined up to view the exhibit from Elvis' wardrobe the show was late in starting, but this only served to heighten the audience's anticipation. From the time the opening sounds of Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001) filled our ears, to the time we heard those words we dreaded to hear, "Elvis has left the building", Elvis mesmerised his crowd as he always did, and always will.
Opposite: From the tour in 2002
The first bracket of Act 1 was all Aloha...See See Rider and Burning Love got the crowd worked up before Elvis delivered a smouldering version of the lyrically ambiguous blues classic, Steamroller Blues. Those of the female sex were then offered the chance to reflect back on the dreams of their younger days as The King sang directly to them with the beautiful Love Me, before he changed gears into the frantic I Can't Stop Loving You.
After introducing the band (and weren't they great!!), Elvis took us on a wonderfully eclectic trip across time. Johnny B. Goode transported us back to the more carefree days of the 1950s, the crowd pleasing and personally poignant (to Elvis) You Gave Me A Mountain took us forward to the 70s, before a series of classic Elvis 50's rockers took us back in time again:
Seeing and listening to the TCB Band (James Burton, Jerry Scheff, Glen D. Hardin and Ronnie Tutt), singers Myrna Smith and Ed Enoch, with Joe Guercio conducting, is always a thrill. Each received all too brief opportunities to showcase their craft. Also present on the tour were two original members from Elvis' orchestra, Ron Feuer on keyboards and Walt Johnson on trumpet.
Many fans will have been pleased that Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Elvis' second biggest selling single of the 60s in Australia, behind the enormous hit, It's Now Or Never) was featured...Elvis' delivery threatening to become the famous "break up" or "laughing" version. Sadly that engaging performance was not captured on high quality video.
Closing out the first act was the often underrated, but sublime, If I Can Dream (from the Comeback Special). A song whose potent lyrics rival (for some, even surpass) those from John Lennon's immortal classic, Imagine, it left the audience on an optimistic high waiting for what would be an even more powerful second act.
At intermission fans were treated to the music video clips for A Little Less Conversation (Elvis vs JXL) and the hip-hop, urban fueled Rubberneckin'.
Outside the merchandise stand did very brisk business with one of the most popular items being an Elvis teddy bear wearing the red Elvis On Tour jacket. It sold out very quickly. Other items snapped up by the fans included the Elvis Lives DVD, t-shirts in either black or white, a range of FTD releases, Elvis clocks and gold records.
At the same time Debbie Johnson from Graceland watched over the visually impressive collection of Elvis clothing. The universal fan favourite was the Purple jumpsuit (with Owl belt) from Elvis On Tour. Even an hour after the show had finished there were still more than 100 fans lined up to view the display.
Opening Act 2 was the song, Sweet Inspiration, featuring the incomparable Myrna Smith (Myrna looked wonderful).
The mood then changed dramatically as Elvis returned with his snarling best treating the audience to the menace of Trouble, again from the Comeback Special.
While Act 1 was more rock 'n' roll, Act 2 was infused with Elvis' trademark big ballads from the 1970s. You've Lost That Loving Feeling gave way to You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, a stunning rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water led into The Wonder Of You, before one of the crowd favourites, Suspicious Minds, evoked many great memories. Each of these were perfectly balanced, their inherent build up priming the expectant audience, our emotions rising with each thunderous orchestral beat. It was an amazing feeling.
Act 2 also included the poignant I'll Remember You and so we didn't get too complacent, Elvis occasionally jolted us back to our dance floor days with the Mystery Train/Tiger Man medley and a scorching version of A Big Hunk O' Love.
As the opening bars of Can't Help Falling In Love started we knew our audience with The King was sadly almost up.
Photo courtesy of Maria Simone
Stand-out performances included the always powerful How Great Thou Art, utilising video from Elvis On Tour coupled with Elvis' Grammy-winning Memphis 1974 concert recording of the song; an energy infused drilling of Polk Salad Annie (TTWII) and Elvis rockin' the house down with Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On (Aloha).
Australian fans fondly remember a number of songs which were huge hits here and when The King started singing The Wonder of You and In The Ghetto (3 weeks at #1 in Australia) the crowds appreciation noticeably went up several notches.
The sound quality of the show was stunning. As we built to the crescendo of the show stopping, patriotic fervour of American Trilogy it seemed as though the thundering sound was about to blow the roof of the ACER Arena clear off its hinges. It also led to one of several standing ovations.
In 1999 when I reviewed the Melbourne and Sydney concerts, I was critical of the uneven video footage used for the show. In 2006 the poorer quality footage has been removed and the video quality is now uniform. Having said that, for fans seated at an angle to the three screens, the video did exhibit an ageing quality. In 2006 we can reasonably expect video to be pristine.
Also in 1999, the main screen used was like a giant sheet which gave some semblance of integration between the artist and his band. In 2006 there was a metal frame encasing the main screen. The result (to me) was to make Elvis looked 'caged in' and remove any integration of artist and band. The frame also made the screen look smaller than it really was. However, on talking to many other fans after the show it was apparent few of them shared my issues with the frame or video quality!
With crowd numbers nowhere near the record attendances enjoyed in the late 1990s, the Australian promoter must have initially been worried about filling up the 22,000 seat ACER Arena. In the last week or so 'C' Reserve tickets were being sold at half price. Any fears were well and truly allayed on the night as what must be the biggest audience to ever watch the show in Australia turned out...an estimated 15,000 appreciative fans. Only the thin top tier of the Arena was noticeably empty.
Verdict: The 2006 production of Elvis Presley In Concert is far superior to the uneven video offering in the late 1990s. It is a crowd pleasing production with stunning, high energy sound quality that leaves you wanting more...a lot more.
The Future: It is, however, now time for Mr Sillerman and EPE to get serious about the next generation of the show, a concert production that is perfect, one utilising a holographic 3D image of Elvis. The investment needed will considerable, but the long term reward has incredible monetary, enduring, and artistic potential!
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