Well, here we have the latest escape from the Memory Label. Offering us the complete 10 PM show from December 9th 1976, Trouble In Vegas gives yet another insight into the troubled world of Elvis in 1976.
Contrary to the initial press release (and thankfully corrected on the sleeve notes) this was the only show from this date.
What have Elvis and Memory Records got to offer us? Let’s have a look.
Presentationally, the CD is standard Memory fare. A stingy 4 page booklet, with a fair front cover, dominated by photos of Elvis in the Blue Rainbow suit (presumably because they could not find any photos from the actual show). Inside is a two page mini essay on the ill fated las(t) Vegas season, and the show. Two very faint photos are in the background, but they might as well not be there, for what we can actually see! The rear page contains a further photograph of Elvis in the Blue Rainbow suit - plus the quote “Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside or outside” - but can Elvis move us, the listener ?
2001/ CC Rider open up (of course) and the sound quality is reasonable, but a bit muffled. Elvis is calling out for the on stage monitors to be turned up straight away, as he cannot hear himself properly. At the conclusion Elvis says “Charlie get me some water, my throat feels like the Mojave Desert… Las Vegas will dry you up like a prune….”
Then it’s "well well well" time, and the first alarm bells are ringing, as Elvis first misses the rhythm has to restart the song, and then loses himself by forgetting the lyrics, needing to be prompted by Charlie and crew. And this is on I Got A Woman!!! Even in August ’76 he could sing that one in his sleep (and did!!) A thankfully short gyrations/dive bomber ending follows to cap off a non-stellar start to the show.
“Welcome to the show”, followed by Elvis receiving a photo of when he “was 2 years old, in mud in Mississipp"i …." I was 2 years old – still am” he says. (Probably Elvis Country LP) A guitar pick and kiss are exchanged.
Love Me is performed in a workmanlike manner, ok, but no great shakes. “aah so, oh so, aah so Lonely”. The crowd seems to enjoy it. Then Elvis decides (seemingly on the spot) to do Fairytale. He puts in the effort and pulls off a pretty decent (short ending) version. At the end he says that one of the 2 Stamps bass singers is “sharking a note!!”
Mountain, says Elvis and we are into a sincere version of this much loved (by Elvis and his fans) song. At this stage you feel that Elvis is warming up nicely. My 3rd movie was “Jailhouse Rock” (huge cheer) “it was 12 years ago and my voice was much higher” "Gotta stand like this or I’ll strip a gear" (“it don’t matter” shouts a crone from the crowd). Elvis gives a fair latter day outing to this rock n roll classic, and the Vegas crowd lap it up as per usual.
“In 1960 we recorded a song based on O Sole Mio….” – yep you guessed, it’s Sherril time! Then Elvis gives another sincere and well delivered performance, again reaching for and hitting the notes he often sharked !!!
Side stepping a request for Moody Blue (“I haven’t even heard Moody Blue yet”) Elvis agrees to another request, for My Way (“we have not done that for a year” he says (well 7 months virtually to the day, maybe !!)). The first 2 attempts fail before a note is sung, and the 3rd attempt falls apart early on, followed by a lengthy moan about the on stage sound - “it is hell up here” declares Elvis. At the fourth attempt, a great version is finally delivered, so all is forgiven !!
“Let’s do Blue Christmas” declares Elvis, before 2 minutes of good humoured interplay with the crowd (“Honey, it’s a show, not an orgy” says Elvis at one point !!) Blue Christmas is then nicely performed after a very short false start. That’s Alright Mama is next on the program, but not before another call for water “I feel like Bob Dylan slept in my mouth…or worse yet Wayne Newton…I’m only kidding I like him”. Take 2 gets off the ground ok after yet another false start !!
Are You Lonesome Tonight ? is performed with the “cabaret” fag routine during the spoken part, which ruins what could have been a very sincere version. Over sincerity then follows, with Softly As I Leave You. Elvis then says “….let’s do Hound Dog,, the most eeediotic song I got”, to break out of that mood. 100 MPH version duly follows, just to get it done and give the crowd what they want to hear.
But this is not where Elvis is at tonight. “Last night after the show, my father went into hospital – he’s doing much better now, today (cheers from the crowd) - we did a song a couple of years ago and I like to think of him when I do it” – Help Me – beautiful performance.
Elvis then delivers to the crowd the final ever performance of his Bicentennial anthem – America The Beautiful. Pure patriotism, from a real American hero without equal.
Band intros follow, featuring the standard ’76 offerings of Early Morning Rain (short version), What’d I Say, sloooooow Love letters and School Days, not forgetting of course the show stopping (literally) David Briggs solo )
An average, but nonetheless moving version of Hurt, with no reprise (due to being “very difficult to do with sand in your throat”), and it’s nearly time to head back to the tables !! Someone shouts out King Creole, but Elvis says “n-n-n-no, not king Creole, Blue Hawaii” - Hawaiian Wedding Song (“Happy Birthday Kathy” says Elvis (I do not think this is literal??) is then sung to perfection.
Right after the song, Elvis says “You’ve been a fantastic audience, but I gotta get out of here” !! How true !! Can’t Help Falling In Love closes us out, and it is job done.
Verdict? A better show than I had expected when I saw the number of false starts in the tracklisting, and some genuine high points given the season. The sound is pretty decent, and the majority of Elvis’ speaking is easily audible. I am sure Elvis moved the audience this night, and in parts moved me also.