A Minnesota Moment
- In-depth review by Piers Beagley -
Elvis live-in-concert in 1976 is not an easy year to review. There were no major set-list changes and more often than not Elvis was on auto-pilot, bored, overweight, unhappy and overmedicated. Apart from the exceptional blast of the final December Tour, 1976 in retrospect seems a slow downward spiral.
However, as with everything Elvis, there are always contradictions, changes and sometimes light at the end of the tunnel. Even with the threat of the Wests-Hebler "Elvis: What Happened" book about to be published there was a definite and positive change in the month leading up to Elvis' October 1976 Tour.
With the help of Elvis fan Steve Lecher who actually attended the concert, EIN's Piers Beagley has a close look at the new Minnesota Moment FTD release.
To be honest 1976 is not an easy Elvis live-in-concert year to review. There were no major set-list changes as had happened in earlier years, no dramatic "emotional roller-coaster" of 1974 and no high-flying "Huntsville" 1975 excitements. Apart from the exceptional blast of the final December 1976 Tour (inspired by the challenge of new-young-love Ginger) 1976 in retrospect seems a slow-grind continuing the inevitable downward spiral.
For that reason alone I find it hard to review 1976 concert releases and yet - for some reason or another - FTD have released plenty of them recently.
Back in the year 2000 FTD had to be totally praised when they released their 'Tucson June 1st 1976' CD but sadly not because it was a great concert - only because it heralded the start a new era of official concert Soundboard releases.
A lacklustre 1976 performance of the typical set-list, Tucson was saved purely by the extraordinary one-off performance of 'Danny Boy'. During the majority of that June 1st performance Elvis' vocal is lifeless and he sounds bored as he has to go through the old routine one more time.
A real 1976 sign-of-the times was that from the 1976 April Tour #17 through to his August Tour #21 Elvis basically wore his "Bicentennial Suit" at every single concert, surely a sign of a bored performer. And that blowsy-shirtsleeves-and-waistcoat look did Elvis no good at all as a cool-looking jumpsuit.
In fact amongst fans Elvis' 1976 August 28th Houston performance is often noted as his "worst concert ever" but his shows throughout most of the summer often sounded as if Elvis was on auto-pilot, bored, overweight, unhappy, ill, overmedicated and desperate.
The recent FTD "New Haven 1976" from July 30th was another case in point. Released because of the excellent audio quality, Elvis sounds bored, medicated and listless and overall it is a painful listening experience.
How did our hero, who stepped onto the Vegas stage on July 31st 1969 to reclaim his throne as a slim and sexy hyper-powered Adonis, fall so low as to become this overweight sad parody in just seven years?
A Minnesota Moment - October 17th 1976.
However, as with everything Elvis, there are always contradictions, changes and sometimes light at the end of the tunnel. Only three months later things would somehow brighten. Even with the threat of the Wests-Hebler "Elvis: What Happened" book about to be published (or possibly because of it) there was a definite and positive change in the month leading up to Elvis' October 1976 Tour #22.
Elvis had lost a fair amount of weight - in his phone call with Red West he mentions that his intestinal (colon) issues had been fixed - and when he stepped on stage in Chicago, on the first night of the October tour, Elvis seemed a rejuvenated man. Not only that, but Elvis was once again wearing different jumpsuits every night - and even fitting into ones he had worn back in 1974.
Bootlegs such as Oct 15th Chicago 'Bringin' The House Down' demonstrate a much-improved performance.
Of course with Elvis there is always THAT ELVIS PRESENCE at every show that no "dry" recorded soundboard can capture. The magic and the excitement of seeing Elvis LIVE and performing in-the-flesh has always been apparent to any fan who attended his concerts, whatever his state.
A particular favourite of mine is the dynamite "Royal Gambit In Richfield' from October 23rd 1976 where the high-quality audience recording manages to capture that pure "Elvis Magic" and makes you long to have been there, even in 1976! (Review coming soon).
Which brings us to a few days earlier in Minnesota, October 17th 1976. Another concert from October Tour #22 and previously unreleased. While the show features the "regular" set-list it does also capture Elvis in that 1976 rejuvenated feel.
The Minnesota concert not only received a fabulous review in the local newspaper (see below) but fans who were present also remember what an exciting night it was.
So perhaps the dryness of the soundboard recording robs the concert of the "wild atmousphere" of 16,000 fans and also reveals a little too much of Elvis "waking up" as he slowly gets into the performance, but overall there is no doubting the feeling that Minnesota, October 17th was another positive step as Elvis headed towards those final great December 1976 concerts. (See the fabulous New Year’s Eve FTD)
Elvis fan Steve Lecher was one of the 16,000 fans present at the Minnesota show and it is worth reading his experience of the actual concert.
... Before reviewing the 1976 concert let me point out that I had been a lifelong Elvis fan since age 10; I saw him every time he was in the Twin Cities - Nov 5, 1971, Oct 2 & 3, 1974, Oct 76 and April 30, 1977. I rank them thusly:
1. Nov 71 2. Oct 76 3. Oct 3, 1974 4. Oct 2, 74 5. April 1977
For the 1976 Minnesota show I waited 4 hours in a line that stretched halfway around the building for tickets in early September. I bought every Elvis single and LP when released and was in a fan club or two, including Paul Lichter's, who hadn't fully earned his reputation yet. His MEMPHIS FLASH magazine was good in that era.
I knew the opening acts would be long from the other shows I went to and I didn't know what to fully expect from Elvis in 1976 as there had been good and bad press about his shows since I saw two less-than-perfect shows in 1974. I had read that ‘Hurt’ was great, and hoped he would do it.
There was a great atmosphere in the building and I was relieved that, from where I sat, he looked much like he did in the photo book you could buy at the concert that featured a lot of 1975 photos. He had a little paunch, but wasn't FAT. Of course now, years later, I know Elvis’ face showed a lot more wear in 76 than 75.
I was 23 when I saw the show and I think my memories of it are pretty realistic and I'm glad to have this FTD released. As dry as people think the sound is here, I think you can hear that the audience is responding and having fun. Elvis seemed kind of re-vitalized on this October tour and in the Minnesota show there is no doubt that Elvis paid attention and put effort into many of the songs.
To be honest I remember being pretty unimpressed with the songs before the intros. At that time, "Mountain" and "Steamroller" sounded pretty lazy and uninspired to me. Though that is still true, comparing them to the many other versions from 75-77 we've heard on CD since, this effort is better than many.
This may also be the best version of "And I Love You So" released from soundboard post 1975. Beautifully done, Elvis stays on key throughout and I remember I thought it was good at the time. "Fever" that followed was OK.
I'll even say that "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog" later in the show were performed here better than average for the time. Please know, this is not to say they are memorable versions, but he again does actually sing many of the words rather than mumble unintelligible sounds.
As with most 1976 shows Elvis goes through the usual songs during the overlong introductions. I also thought "Love Letters" was pretty well done and after many very painful versions we've been subjected to through the years, this one is among the better ones. After the introductions though being in the audience and not being so familiar with Elvis' 1976 show, it got magical as Elvis did his best singing of the night.
"Hurt" with reprise (as you've heard, you had to hear this in person to really understand,)then "Hound Dog" and "It's Now or Never" without Sherrill, sung well and a song I didn't know he did live.
"One Night" was another surprise and it sounded wonderful with Elvis showing a bit of bite to his voice on a couple of lines.
Then "Mystery Train/Tiger Man" which is a pretty good effort for the period as Elvis sings it without mumbling. The sincere sounding offer to come back if we want him (a woman behind me shouted "How about tomorrow night?") and fine "Funny How Time Slips Away" and the closing number. Those post introduction performances made the whole show.
The audience and I enjoyed that concert in 1976. I remember the whole audience left the building buzzing about his terrific singing.
To be honest I am disappointed that this FTD does not have the recording of "Hurt" from that night, as that version featured the standard ending, with a reprise that had the higher ending. I wonder why they switched versions. It's curious that the playing time of the track is less than 2 minutes while the back of the digipack shows a playing time of 3 1/2 minutes. Did they switch "Hurt" versions at the last minute? Still, I think this overall version may be stronger than the Minneapolis "Hurt."
Anyway, these are my thoughts on the show I'm glad I got to attend.
EIN CD Review.
The Minnesota soundboard audio quality is similar to the ‘America’ April 1976 FTD although far more listenable since the mix (as well as Elvis’ mood) was so wrong on the previous release. It is however not as good audio quality as the fine ‘Rockin’ Across Texas’ July 3rd 1976 FTD. The CD is a packed 77 minutes.
|Please note that although this FTD cover and review states that it features five tracks from Dayton, October 26, 1976, it was later proven that the tape was actually from a later tour, Anaheim, November 30, 1976 - this concert was eventually released in full on the double FTD 'The West Coast Tour'76 in 2016.
|Some of the inside images from the FTD sleeve
The cover design on the front leaves a lot to be desired for me since the cover-shot of Elvis looking through the letters of his own name seems a little strange. It is however a basic digi-pack which features several of Tim Healy's photographs (see below) showing Elvis looking much better than earlier in the year. Elvis is wearing his Inca Gold Leaf jumpsuit a great improvement on the "Bicentennial Suit" he had been wearing for the previous 6 months.
Despite Steve Lecher's comment of "being pretty unimpressed with the songs before the intros", if you weren't comparing the concert with Elvis’ earlier seventies performances he kicks off with a fairly upbeat 'See See Rider'. He sounds neither tired nor out-of-breath (as he does on the FTD 'New Haven' from earlier in the year).
In fact as Elvis starts singing 'I Got A Woman' there's a laugh in his voice and he seems to be enjoying himself being on-stage and performing to his beloved fans rather than that well-known "just got out-of-bed" feel.
When a fan asks for his microphone to be turned up Elvis shows good humour and playfully jokes deliberately over-loudly into the mic, "Listen goddamn it, we'll get it right one way or another!"
Overall the first few songs have a far better and more upbeat feel than most 1976 concerts, hardly the power of 1974 but nor the sadness of most performances earlier in the year. Elvis must have been feeling physically better.
'You Gave Me A Mountain' is charmingly done with enthusiasm, no breathlessness and no troubles hitting the power-notes. The ending with "You gave me a mountain. Lord, you know you did" is a nice touch.
The crowd-pleasing oldies are thrown-away as always ('Don't Be Cruel' is particularly uninspired) although I am sure on the night they would have sounded great if you had never seen Elvis perform previously.
The treats really start with a delicious and considered 'And I Love You So' very nicely sung, one of the best later live versions.
Elvis is then up-for-fun with 'Fever' teasing the crowd "Hope the suit don't break. Now honey, don't go completely nuts!" Taking the song a little more seriously than often, it has a cool swagger for a later seventies’ version and gets the crowd screaming.
While Steve Lecher remembers 'Steamroller' as "a little disappointing" (probably comparing it to the earlier 73 versions) it still sounds pretty cool, with some nice piano from Tony Brown and Elvis' enthusiasm showing over James Burton's guitar solo. Elvis certainly puts in far more energy than usual. Only performed around 6 times in the last 7 months of 1976, Elvis would only perform the song another 5 times in his life.
As usual in 1976 the Introductions seem to go on forever. They are somewhat saved by a delicate 'Early Morning Rain'. I am sure that had anybody thought these soundboards would ever be released then the musicians (Tony Brown?) would have varied their solos somewhat each night. Interestingly Jerry Scheff deviates somewhat from the norm this night and it's a fine bass solo, even if all we want is more real Elvis!
Elvis introduces the "first song David Briggs and I did when we worked together" as "Hurt". But then nicely corrects himself, "No, I mean 'Love Letters' - good grief!" As noted, it is one of the better versions of 'Love Letters'. This is far better than the torturous ‘Tucson’ version or the too-slow ‘Rockin’ Across Texas’’ version.
As Steve Lecher points out a different version has been used for 'Hurt' on this CD (from October 26th in Dayton) and disappointingly 'Hurt' now doesn't feature the reprise that Elvis gave on the night which would also go to show his positive mood. It is however a fine version and very different since a VERY up-front piano mix has been used for the song. It is a shame that the audio mix is so different but I actually have no complaints as it does sound so varied from the usual.
'Hound Dog' is the regular run-through before Elvis spontaneously chooses 'One Night' as the next song. "You see we're here to entertain you. So whatever you want to hear, we'll do it!"
Elvis sang 'One Night' possibly less than 10 times in the whole of 1976 and would only sing it another 4 times in his career. In fact Elvis never sang this classic song at all in the whole of 1973 & 1974. While it sure isn't the bite of 1968 I know that I would have been thrilled to hear it.
In fact Elvis does have some fun with 'One Night' and treats it with much more enthusiasm than he does any of the regular oldies. His voice has a good punch to it and James Burton's guitar is a treat. Listen out for Elvis' deep "yeahhh" before the break.
'It's Now Or Never' without the "Sherrill Neilsen" ‘O Sole Mio’ intro (and still somewhat of a rarity in Elvis' set-list in 1976) is good to hear this night and greeted with the applause it deserved.
'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' (not performed at every show) is of course another highlight and another sign of Elvis having extra energy that night.
Asking for the house lights to be turned up Elvis ends with a delightful 'Funny How Time Slips Away' before the standard outro.
As stated the whole show, if not compared against Elvis stunning early seventies concerts, is one of the better performances from 1976 and shows that things were improving for him.
Although the final December Las Vegas season would become too exhausting (not helped by his sprained ankle) this October season was an indication of how Elvis could motivate himself as he would for the final great Tour of the year.
With the highlights of the Minnesota concert being in the second half, the overall feel of the CD is even given an even more positive spin with five fine bonus songs.
Five bonus songs, two from Sioux Falls October 18th and three more from Dayton October 26th. (There is a mistake on the sleeve notes here). The quality of the three Dayton recording is a stunning jump in sound-quality as it is very good for a soundboard and also in STEREO, albeit with mainly piano on the left channel. Sadly the stereo is out-of-phase (see audio note below)
In Minnesota, for some reason, Elvis left out his power-house vocal highlight 'America' although he was still performing it on most nights. The version here from Sioux Falls is one of the better versions and there is some discussion beforehand yet again showing that Elvis was in good humour at his show the following night. Elvis cleverly jokes about the PA system, "Why's that thing humming? Perhaps it doesn't know the words!"
'Fairytale' as always is also another nice treat even if it doesn’t have the power of his earlier 1975 versions. He is obviously having fun at the end as he punches out the words. Again apart from the audience recording of ‘New Year’s Eve’ this is the only 1976 release of this song. It is amazing to think that Elvis’ fairytale only had 9 months to go.
‘Hawaiian Wedding Song’ in stereo sounds great quality and it is s a very measured performance and so much better than the sad and over-medicated version on ‘New Haven’. This is again a treat as, so far from 1976-1977, FTD has surprisingly only released the one version from ‘New Haven’.
‘Blue Christmas’ is another gem, the sound quality being so damn good. Elvis says he’s going to play guitar, "Is the guitar in tune?" There’s a lovely touch where Elvis says in a deep voice "last line".Elvis only sang this song 4 times in 1977 and the version here has a much slower and "country" feel compared to the March 26th 1977 Norman concert ('Spring Tours' 77 FTD) that we know. This is in fact the only official release of this song from 1976.
‘That’s All Right’ – The fabulous joke here is that someone in the audience suggests ‘Lonesome Cowboy’! Elvis reacts with shock and the band even begins playing a few bars of the song! Not an overly-common song for Elvis to perform in the last year of his life,‘That’s All Right’ sounds very good for 1976 although perhaps taken too fast a tempo. Elvis however sounds pumped-up as he kicks the band along, "Walk on, Walk on.." Once again amazingly this is the only official release of this song from 1976.
Elvis notes, "Thank you. Whoo!", - a great way to end the CD.
So while the esteemed magazine ‘Elvis The Man & His Music’ (which I respect very much) derided this release for Elvis’ lamentable performances (‘One Night’ considered "a travesty") we all know that this is Elvis performing less than 8 months before his final concert. So compared to other shows of the same year - like Steve Lecher - I would have been happy to have witnessed this show.
NOTE that two solo performances by Sherrill Nielsen have been edited from the Minnesota concert. I have to state that I have no problem with this since we all want more Elvis and less solos!
As FTD have a concept of releasing one Elvis show from each individual tour, then this unreleased Minnesota concert is a fine addition to the 1976 collection, and certainly better than ‘Tucson’, ‘New Haven’ or ‘America’ from April 22nd.
Not to forget the earlier ‘Rockin’ Across Texas’ FTD of July 3rd 1976 where the concert was a complete surprise in that it captured a rare performance of Elvis in good form mid-year.
Overall Verdict: For listening pleasure one could never choose an Elvis live performance of 1976 over his dynamic concerts of the early seventies. Even the highly-rated December 1976 concerts cannot compete against the power of ‘TTWII’ 1970 or ‘On Tour’ 1972. Elvis in 1976 was not a healthy man and his manager (who should have known better) who pushed Elvis to a gruelling nine USA tours and two casino seasons in the final year of his life should have been the one made to suffer. So while these 1976 concerts in general have to present a worn-out superstar this unreleased Minnesota concert comes as somewhat of a surprise and really does capture some of the spark that would bring Elvis back to his final great concerts at the end of the year. Elvis collectors must surely appreciate this FTD release – but in the same breath I would be very wary of playing this to any non-Elvis fanatics who might not realise the legacy & history behind Elvis’ final year.
With special THANKS to Steve Lecher for his input and help.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN March 2010
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Click here to comment on this article
AUDIO NOTE: The CD was mastered by Lene Reidel. Time and again EIN and others have pointed out what a marvellous job Vic Anesini, Kevan Budd, Sebastian Jeansson and Jean-Marc Juilland do with the audio of these FTD releases. The same accolades cannot go to Lene Reidel who seems to show little care in her Elvis releases. While I do not like to denigrate people's hard work, the extreme audio level jump on the TODAY Classic Album release showed that she can have never properly listened to her finished product. Similarly on this release, the jump from mono to out-of-phase stereo is something that an audio engineer should spot when checking their work. Elvis' voice instead of being mono-centred, along with Jerry Scheff's bass, suddenly becomes "spacial" and with no focus. More disappointing audio work from Ms Reidel.
SEE BELOW FOR YET MORE MINNESOTA MOMENTS
'A Minneapolis Moment' - FTD 2010 July release #506020 975008
Minneapolis, Minneapolis, October 17 1976
1. Also Sprach Zarathustra
2. See See Rider
3. I Got A Woman/Amen
4. Love Me
5. If You Love Me
6. You Gave Me A Mountain
7. Jailhouse Rock
8. All Shook Up
9. Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
10. And I Love You So
12. Steamroller Blues
13. Introductions/Early Mornin' Rain
14. What'd I Say/Johnny B. Goode
15. Love Letters
16. School Days (Dayton, Oct. 26)
17. Hurt (Dayton, Oct. 26)
18. Hound Dog
19. One Night
20. It's Now Or Never
21. Mystery Train/Tiger Man
22. Funny How Time Slips Away
23. Can't Help Falling In Love
24. Fairytale (Sioux Falls, Oct. 18)
25. America (Sioux Falls, Oct. 18)
26. Hawaiian Wedding Song (Dayton, Oct. 26)
27. Blue Christmas (Dayton, Oct. 26)
28. That's All Right (Dayton, Oct. 26)
FTD CD Credits: Compilation and art directed by Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon.
Mastered by Lene Reidel.
Review from The Minneapolis Tribune.
Elvis Shakes, Rafters Rattle, Money Rolls
by Michael Anthony
Oct 18, 1976
Elvis Presley, "the Big One," as he has come to be called, shook those famous hips, handed out a few dozen scarves and sang for 72 minutes to a capacity crowd of 15,800 screaming fans at Met Sports Center Sunday night.
These days, a Presley concert is much ritual as anything else, and it begins as the crowd enters the auditorium. "Elvis Super Souvenirs" - posters, photo albums and buttons (big ones this year, the size of a pizza) - are aggressively hawked at various tables, and we're reminded of those souvenirs by the announcer throughout the show. (Col. Tom Parker, the mastermind behind Elvis's career all these years, knows about such things. Parker started out in the 1930s selling foot-long hot dogs at state fairs.)
The show itself also has become ritualized. We expect, that is, the lights to dim just before a drum roll and the band's statement of Richard Strauss's arching theme from "Thus Spake Zarathustra." We expect the room to come ablaze from thousands of flash bulbs - to say nothing of the ear-piercing screams - as the Big One walks onstage.
We expect - and it happens during the songs he's not too interested in - the scarf schtick, only now it's become rather machine-like. Trailed by a dutiful stagehand who loops scarves around the Presley neck, Elvis approaches the crowd and drops one of the scarves into s stretched-out hand near the stage. For one brief, shining moment that scarf was around the Big One's neck. With one scarf Elvis cleaned out his right ear before throwing it to the crowd. And three girls, standing on tiptoes, actually got a kiss.
There's also a "Let's Pretend" element to the show. Let's pretend that Elvis, dressed in a tight white jumpsuit extravagantly overlaid with rhinestones, won't really be 42 next Jan. 8, that he doesn't have a weight problem so serious he had to check into a hospital last year to drop about 30 pounds, and that his predominately female, mainly middle-aged audience is still
teen-aged: chewing gum like mad, saying "Kid" in front of each sentence and hurrying home from school to catch "American Bandstand."
For his part, and perhaps to amuse himself more than anything else, Elvis plays the role, but he exaggerates it in the same way that Mae West used to satirize by exaggerating female sexuality. He winks at, he teases the audience, and his pelvis swivels are now elaborate, amusing affairs accompanies by rim shots from the drummer. What else for a 41-year-old millionaire, so establishment these days that Richard Nixon made him an honorary narcotics officer, but to parody the Elvis of old, once the epitome of teen-age rebellion and outrageous sexuality?
Taken as is, however, this was a much more satisfying concert than Elvis's last performance here, in St. Paul two years ago. The format was the same: brief opening acts (J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, comedian Jackie Kahane and the Sweet Inspirations) with the singers backing Elvis for his set in the second half. But the boredom that clearly afflicted him throughout much of the earlier show surfaced only occasionally this time around, and often Sunday we got a chance to hear him really sing, especially on newer tunes, such as his current heart-on-sleeve single Hurt.
When he wants to use it, Elvis's baritone, with its resonant bottom and somewhat nasal top, is in as good shape as ever and, of course, as a performer on stage, singing or just fooling around, he has more charisma than a dozen other top performers combined. Will Elvis endure? Judging by the screams of the audience he's in no trouble.
Nonetheless, his records are no longer guaranteed the top spot on the charts and, contrary to the old pattern, this particular concert took weeks to sell out. (However, in Duluth, where he performed the night before, the tickets went in three hours.) Here, it may have been the $12.50 price that kept some away.
(EIN NOTE: Interesting comment above when Steve Lecher earlier noted that the ticket line stretched halfway around the building. Although 15,800 tickets is a large venue capacity especially for 1976.)
'Elvis In A Minnesota Minute' MRS book: The MRS label has also published its first standalone book as a limited edition only release. The 9 x 11 inch hardback book contains 100 pages in full color gloss print, featuring the photographic works of Tim Healy in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Elvis Presley show on October 17, 1976.
As the Minneapolis Tribune reported at the time, “Elvis is in as good shape as ever and, of course, as a performer on stage, singing or just fooling around, he has more charisma than a dozen other top performers combined. Will Elvis endure? Judging by the screams of the audience he's in no trouble.”
Below are two of Tim Healy's exclusive photos from the book showing Elvis in fine form for 1976.
Click here for more details & purchase info.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN March 2010
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Click here to comment on this article
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