Elvis The Concert Years (Stein Erik Skar)
Elvis talking with a fan at the edge of the stage.
von Braun Civic Center, Huntsville, Alabama
May 23, 2002
Note that the emblem from his belt is missing. It was loose and began to fall off during the show. When a fan brought it to Elvis' attention, he gave it to the lucky fan, performing the rest of the show without the emblem. (Elvis On Stage by Keith Alverson)
"I have seen over 30 shows, and this was without a doubt the worst I have ever seen." These words were spoken by Norway's best-known Elvis aficionado, Pal Granlund, after the first show of the tour in San Antonio, Texas.
Elvis opened the show promisingly with fairly energetic movements and a good version of "See See Rider". But Elvis' movements, in his highly obese condition, were no longer an aesthetic pleasure. There were high points - but the show lacked a couple of songs of good calibre to deserve to be called good. Elvis was not in shape to really exert himself more than three times - during "Hurt" and "America the Beautiful" - too short a supply for a whole concert.
The Houston concert the next day was a catastrophe. Elvis appeared dull, unsteady and half asleep during the beginning of the show. "America the Beautiful" came as pleasant surprise to the audience. Elvis was, unbelievably - given the condition he was in - able to spellbind, touch the heart of the audience. But that was all Elvis managed during this concert. He was burnt out after one song. The audience was in a state of shock.
It was quite normal that Elvis wasn't in a good mood during the matinee shows - Elvis wasn't quite awake at that time of day. The effect of the large dose of sleeping tablets that Elvis took to get to sleep had not worn off. But this alone is not the only explanation for as poor a show as the Houston show. It looked like Elvis was completely and totally in a world of his own. The news of the West / Hebler book was worrying him terribly, but other things were on his mind too.
The disinterest was very obvious to everyone. One incident occurred when a little girl in a plaster cast was carried to the stage. Elvis seemed reluctantly to give her a scarf, and then just walked away. She then held a pen to him and he signed the cast, but he made no fuss of her at all. Elvis usually went out his way for children. While he sang "And I Love You So", he was near to tears, especially during the lines 'how lonely life can be'. He really wondered who his 'real' friends were.
But even on this miserable tour Elvis held some god shows, like the ones in Macon, Jacksonville, Tampa and Huntsville. Elvis felt as miserable as he looked during this tour. The Imperial member Joe Mescale met Elvis in Huntsville: "He was fat and sick. He asked everybody to leave the room when I came - Sheila Ryan was with him. He told me he was so ill. He said 'I don't even want to be here'."
The West / Webler situation was a big mental strain. Elvis said that the imminent publication of the book made him feel as though he had been betrayed by his best friends. "How lonely life can be" was probably no longer just any lyric to Elvis.
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