Today in the ‘rock room’ we set the rock time machine for February 23, 1970 visiting Elvis Presley’s closing show of his Winter 1970 residence at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Presley’s official LP release On Stage, Feb, 1970 resulted from this run of appearances and is the reason for the existence of this particular soundboard line recording.
This is the final concert of a successful off season residency for Elvis who was following up his July 31, 1969 debut and return to live appearances at the Vegas venue. The recording I am enjoying is a reported first generation from the multi-tracks and sounds stellar, sparkling like aural stars. There is a light distant hiss but in my opinion the bass sounds better than previous boot releases and the vocal mix is perfection.
Elvis and band rip through an hour set that shows Elvis in superior form and the band triumphantly running through a show that concludes a four week long run with two shows a night and includes more than a few special performances. As Presley fans are aware, Elvis would often break out the special goods for the final nights of his runs, this night is no different. Elvis is loose, the band is tight and there is a humor and willingness to entertain that glows from the recording.
In the ‘rock room’s’ humble opinion this series of concerts are the zenith of Presley’s second peak as a performer, bursting with attitude, confidence and featuring a band as hot as a bed of glowing red musical embers. This is one of the finest representations of the King in his element, on stage, performance unmatched. At this point in time Presley was still enjoying his Vegas residency’s the enthusiasm is tangible, but he does sound thrilled to close out his current run in a big way.
The concert opens with a tribal and rumbling ‘All Shook Up’ that crashes in on rolling thunder percussion. The guitar and blasting horns initiate the opening as Presley’s voice enters boisterous and full. The usual opener for this particular Vegas season, the practiced group quivers their way through the breathless opener. The song is bundled into a package of pure undiluted musical excitement.
‘I Got a Woman’ follows briskly and keeps the tempo accelerated and the groove at a fevered pitch. Presley is all business, kicking his heels in and singing a undulating version that draws whoops from the backing singers following its conclusion.
‘Long Tall Sally’ sneaks down the alley in a blur, performed in a blink and you’ll miss it rendition. Elvis is in gravel throat and convulsing with surging electric rock and roll gyrations. The opening one, two, three series of songs are an inspired and aggressive introduction to the performance
Elvis bids the crowd good evening, asks for a glass of water and makes some small talk on the stage and with the crowd. The soundboard picks up numerous and delightful pieces of dialog from the microphones.
Elvis continues with his current musical chart offering, ‘Don’t Cry Daddy’, performed delicately and to studio rendition perfection. Again, his vocals are knife point accurate and resonate with a gospel authority. The song is a beautiful musical respite from the scatter shot of rock that opened the concert.
Presley now introduces two of his earliest sides and the contributing melodies that initiated his stratospheric rise to fame. ‘Hound Dog’ snarls, a rabid beast that jumped the fence defiantly and in no way resembles the original. The song swings with a strobe light intensity and heel biting arrangement that contemporizes the original Presley reading.
‘Love Me Tender’ is the second of the two early Presley sides. ‘Love Me Tender’ is an opportunity for Presley to joke, drive his female fans into frenzy and walk around greeting the crowd. His wife Priscilla is one of the women who approach Elvis during his jaunt to plant a wet one on the King..
‘Kentucky Rain’ is exhilarating, driven by a frisky bass by line by Jerry Scheff that coaxes Elvis into hearty and warmed vocals. Elvis can be heard encouraging the band off mic at various points, his investment in the recent cut evident. Elvis drives hard during the chorus and pulls back dynamically during the rain whetted verses. The performance initiates the concerts steady ascension to a greater level. A stand out performance.
What would be the final concert performance of the ‘Everly Brothers’ classic, ‘Let It Be Me’ that follows is nothing short of stunning. Silky strings intermingle with the tasteful backing vocals swirling into huge sandy spindrifts of swelling sound. Melodic dust devils abound, Presley pours himself out in a soulful ‘Oh’ over Burton’s tasteful solo break. The finale is substantial, paisley and fittingly glorious.
‘Let It Be Me’ segues seamlessly into the opening of ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ a hand waving statement of allegiance rambling on the heavy left handed piano figure. Presley overloads the microphone at points, belting as the music begins to burst at the seams, sliced through by exploding cymbals.
‘C.C. Rider’ is pleasingly out of control, the song would become a standard high octane opener by 1972, here it sits mid set and refuses to return until Fall. Burton lights the fuse with a quick but intense solo spot. The tune becomes a call and response rave up that gets everybody fired up by the time it reaches its fitting conclusion.
Presley keeps the appeal widespread and the fare light when he begins ‘Sweet Caroline’. The chorus is sung with great affection by Presley and by the end of the song he and his band have made it their own. I can actually dig it with Presley and Band at the wheel, no offense to Mr. Diamond.
Scheff’s warm bass pulses combine with collaborative hand claps as Presley tells the story of ‘Polk Salad Annie’ for the assembled crowd. A highlight of the residency, this version fills the belly with heavy horns and pumping accentuated bass and drums interaction. Sticky scat vocals by the ‘Sweet Inspirations’ swamp vine with Presley’s ‘Jim Morrison’ vocal vamping while the band pulls the shades and lets out a deep breath. The track fades out after six minutes, leading into Presley’s introductions of the band along with some humorous asides and gentle insults. Presley introduces the group with some curious ‘nicknames’ while setting the table for the closing extravaganza.
Elvis then directs the crowd to ‘hang loose’ as he sits down at the piano for a rare impromptu performance of ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ that starts one way and ends another. The song begins with a short instrumental quote of ‘Blueberry Hill’ before suddenly landing into the introduction of ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’. Presley digs in, surrounded and encouraged by a plethora of shouts from the stage encouraging the short but sweet treat for the audience and band.
Presley stays at the piano responding to the crowd request for ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and leads the band through a dirty version after replying, ‘I used to be Fats Domino’. This version sits under blue light while simmering with unrest.
‘Cat do em all, but I’ll do some of them’, Elvis says to the assembled shouts from the crowd. Presley then straps on his electric for a pleading ‘One Night’ that visits in a slow hip grinding reading that Presley’s spits out in a guttural vibrato that sways between sweet and surely. The band swells during the middle eight to which Presley responds with some of his most impassioned singing of the evening.
The third rarity in a row comes next with a luxuriant, ‘It’s Now or Never’, with Elvis asking the band if they remember how to play it. This is the songs first concert appearance as far as I know. Presley remains on electric guitar for this cut as directs the band through sunny and dynamic changes leading them straight on to chilling chorus vocals.
Before I know it, Presley quickly instructs the band to ‘take it home’ and with barely a pause the group begins ‘Suspicious Minds’. This version is the recipient of all of the good time vibes that have been building throughout the concert. Elvis swings, stutters, bucks and grinds his way through a wonderfully climactic and cinematic version.
A moment is taken to thank everyone responsible for the run of Vegas performances with Elvis telling the crowd the band is moving onto Houston. Presley thanks the crowd sincerely before closing the night and the month out with ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love’. Swooning and strings collaborate in a typically perfect conclusion.
Elvis Presley and Band in 1970 had discovered the perfect blend of song choice, performance, attitude, and humor to deliver an exciting and satisfying concert experience. Presley had also discovered an artistically fulfilling space, where the material was strong and his confidence was not disturbed by trappings of fame and drugs. Presley was primed and the band backed him with a front man aesthetic. The combination resulted in shows like the one reviewed here as well as more than a few representations on official releases. Hunt this one down and spend a regal evening with the King at the top of his rule.