Elvis: '68 Comeback Special
One of the great transition moments in Rock and Roll. And some of the most singular rock music ever — one man with the voice, the power and the looks. By this time E was used to dealing with the empty spaces and endless waiting and run-throughs of filming a production (book title: 29 Pictures
); and his quiet patience when most other rock stars would’ve walked off and insulted the director is inaresting — indeed with almost every take involved in the 50-minute special represented here (surprising to see how many takes and scenes actually go into it), you get every boring, waiting minute without a single tantrum (though I lost track of E saying 'mah boy, mah boy' to himself). E still manages to pull of exponential, seismic shifts in energy, to unleash hoards of inner energy through his voice — the various takes of One Night, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Trying to Get to You
are just amazing; within the space of a second he racks up the highest intensity. It's almost voyeuristic to see a single performer put so much energy into a televisual performance; you look around to see if it's really possible. And despite all the waiting and expected attention during the solo numbers (E is no MC and doesn’t care), he always puts in an on-performance; the three takes of If I can Dream
are all intense, committed. Never fluffed. The only downers are the production numbers with the dancers and bordello scenes and neon streets — these are terribly dated, shockingly archaic. For our jaded media eyes, the wholly lo-cal state of the production concept (variety family musical fun informal performance spectacle with lotsa dancers) smacks of cheap televisual and saccharine patheticness. If it had been just E doing rhythm/blues and gospel tunes this would've blown the world away. It aims at slickness but ultimately comes across as camp and cornball, or merely competing with Ed Sullivan (send in the circus and magic acts). Greil Marcus was awarded essay duty for the sleeve notes, and despite his (elsewhere) diagnosis of a man singing for his life if not his musical career, here he comes across as putting cheap mock-academic superlatives and hyperbolic spin on the matter (parallels are drawn with Connery's 007). Writing more and more like a mindless fan rather than a deepener of the artistic truth. With the squared-in stage (the stand-up show), E looks caged and jaunty, but he slowly starts playing to the audience, busting a move, taking it in, testing the waters after 29 pictures, limbering up to performing again and hence there’s a sense of personal turning point, a sense of return to real audiences and immediate jubilation. And he did it by his vocal performance alone, not moves — this is some of his most committed singing. Considering the ease with which E could sing, and the boredom and laziness he wallowed in if allowed, this is probably one of the few live times where the vocals mattered most to him, and after days of intense singing he hardly even loses his voice. Also, the offstage band is wrong somehow — E needs the ride and bounce of a big, projecting band. The screaming girls are almost not noticeable anymore (again, the Nicholas Cage effect). Charlie Hodge keeps cropping up all over the place too; it was a mistake giving him a mike in the first place — he only hacks into it. Funny how every man looks ugly around E...
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