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|CONCERT CAPTURES OF THE KING FOR 40th ANNIVERSARY
August 18, 2017 - Commercial Appeal / Elvis Express Radio
|The King – or at least a larger-than-life version of his royal visage – returned home to Memphis on Wednesday, as FedExForum hosted “Elvis: Live in Concert,” a combination
musical performance/video event that drew an estimated 10,000 devotees, most of them in town to mark the 40th anniversary of Presley’s passing.
The show is the byproduct of a 2015 album, “If I Can Dream,” which brought together old Presley vocal tracks and new musical recordings by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The
album was a major international success with over 1.6 million copies sold and spawned a successful follow-up LP, “The Wonder of You,” last year. The projects prompted a live
multimedia tour which sold out arenas in Europe and Australia before making its U.S. debut in Akron, Ohio earlier this month.
The concert program began with a surprise: a teaser for the forthcoming and much-anticipated HBO documentary on Presley. The film, titled "Elvis Presley: The Searcher,” is
directed by Thom Zimny, an Emmy and Grammy winner who’s made several projects for Bruce Springsteen.
The four-minute preview of the doc focused on Presley’s return to serious music-making in Memphis in 1969 with producer Chips Moman. The clip included interviews with
Springsteen, Tom Petty, Stax songwriter/producer David Porter and various Presley associates including the recently departed Red West. The film will premiere on HBO at some
point in 2018.
After the film preview, the concert kicked off with the arrival of conductor Robin Smith, and a 40-piece ensemble that included a core rock band and backing singers, abetted by
strings (featuring members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra), brass and woodwinds.
Elvis’ former wife Priscilla Presley introduced the show and served as host for the evening, promising a visceral experience. “You’ll see [Elvis] bond with his band, you'll see the
rapport he had with the audience, you’ll see him have fun,” she said. “It’s a delight to have him back.”
The first part of the performance charged out with a big-screen Presley in his early-‘70s prime belting out “Burning Love” and “Steamroller Blues,” while smaller secondary screens
flashed images from across his career.
The presentation was not without precedent. In 1997 and 2007, for the 20th and 30th anniversaries of Presley’s passing, Memphis hosted similar concert productions. The technical
aspects of those shows -- their merger of video projected footage with live musicians and a 16-piece orchestra conducted by Joe Guercio -- were seamless. And the main group
featured the bulk of Presley's '70s TCB Band, including guitarist James Burton, drummer Ronnie Tutt, bassist Jerry Scheff, and pianist Glen D. Hardin. Having Presley’s players on
hand offered a direct connection to what his dazzling ‘70s stage show felt like.
The new "Elvis: In Concert” -- while lacking some of the frisson and precision of the previous shows -- did manage to highlight different sides of Presley’s musical makeup, focusing
on powerful ballads ("Bridge Over Troubled Water;" “You Gave Me a Mountain”) and songs of operatic scope (“It’s Now or Never”; “Can’t Help Falling in Love”).
Though the concert was not fully sold out – the top rafters were largely empty – those in attendance had come from all over. Fans from places as far flung as Tasmania and near as
Tullahoma, Tennessee thrilled to Presley’s voice, his comic interludes and jumpsuit gyrations as though he were there in the flesh. For them the King was neither gone, nor
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