760322

March 22, 1976. 8:30 pm

Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis,  Mo.

Leaving Cincinnati, Ohio on March 22, 1976

Arriving in St. Louis, Missouri

Leaving the show in St. Louis, Mo.

Gold-Spangled Elvis: Flashes of the Old Fire.

Elvis Presley

Kiel Auditorium

St. Louis, Missouri

March 22nd, 1976


by Harper Barnes

These days, Elvis Presley wraps himself in the power of other people. There are ten backup singers, including a fe-male high-note specialist and a male low-note specialist; three guitar players, including the brilliant James Burton; a bass-ist; a pianist on a miked grand; two drummers; an immense horn section and god knows what else hidden in the tangle of arms and legs.

   In St. Louis, where he ended a four-city minitour that had touched Johnson City, Tennes-see, Charlotte and Cincinnati, the  whole human calliope was going full boil virtually all the time, embracing Elvis in a dense belix of sound. And the rock they play now is harder and  louder  than  it  used to be, a lot closer to Capricorn Rec-ords than to Sun.
   Elvis seems weak, perhaps justifiably so after a prolonged battle with overweight, a battle


Harper Barnes is a feature writer for the St. Louis ´Post-Dispatch´and´book columnist for Boston´s ´Real Paper.

he has only partially won, and problems with his innards that sent him to the hospital. His set lasted barely 50 minutes, he loafed even more than usual and there were none of the karate chops and leaps of a few years ago.

   But the fire burned through from time to time, and besides, it was Elvis Presley. You go to see him as much out of rever-ence for the past as from ex-pectation for the immediate fu-ture. The auditorium, which seats 10,500 had been sold out for weeks. A crippled girl had been unable to get tickets and all she cared about in  the world was Elvis Presley. There was a story in the paper and as if by magic a St. Louis massage par-lor came up with a couple of ducats right up near the front for the little lady and her friend who pushes the wheelchair. There was a story about that in the paper too.

   A creepy Las Vegas come-dian  named  Jackie  Kahane, who must be blackmailing Elvis or maybe is his brother-in-law, told some prune-juice jokes. Then it was time once again for the humble strains  of 2001 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), and the rock ´n´ roll obelisk named Elvis Presley hove into view. No  cape  this  time,  just   basic

gold-spangled black pants and vest over a ruffled and daringly low-cut baby-blue shirt.

   He bagan with a fast "C.C. Rider" and then really ripped into "I Got a Woman," which became briefly entangled with "Amen," but soon emerged unscratched. The Instamatics were present in approximately a one-to-one ratio with bouffant hairdos and for a while the flash cubes were going off so rapidly it looked like high noon. That must have con-fused Elvis because, after long applause and a general rush of femininity toward the stage - the audience was at least two-thirds women, including many mother - and - daughter combos - he said, "I hope we have a good time this afternoon." It was about 10 p.m.

    With the teasing elegance of a  stripper  in  a  room  full  of neck fetishists, Elvis removed and tossed into the audience two or three dozen scarves in the  course of the evening, as has become his custom. If you didn´t  catch  one,  you  could buy them in the lobby, at five dollars apiece.

   With a couple of exceptions, the remainder of the show, which seemed to be over in  a  blink, was devoted to a recita-tion of the classics. It was done

quickly  and  perfunctorily  -- with a couple of exceptions -- and Elvis leaned on the band for support much of the way.

   There was "Don´t Be Cruel," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me  Tender" --- lots of squeals and camera flashes on that one --- "Polk Salad Annie," "Hound Dog." Elvis sort of mumbled his way through the last, but when he was through singing, Burton took off on a glass-etching run of high notes, Elvis twitched his ass to the beat and the crowd went bonkers.

   He closed with "Funny How Time Slips Away" --- yes, isn´t it ---  and  "Can´t  Help  Falling

in Love." The crowd at the apron of the stage by then consisted of maybe 300 people jammed together, with the ones closest to Elvis reaching up desperately  to  touch  the  hem of his garment. As the last note decayed into the vast dome of the ceiling, Elvis turned on his heel and strode into the wings, followed by four or five body-guards. The crush of women below the  front of the stage squealed and waved Elvis goodbye and above the flutter-ing fingers, held tightly in a strong tight hand, swayed a crutch.