Elvis Presley, the legendary King of Rock and Roll, had a profound impact on music history, captivating audiences around the world with his electrifying stage presence and unforgettable performances. While many fans were fortunate enough to witness Elvis live during both the 1950s and 1970s, my personal experience was limited to the latter decade. However, through extensive research for my book, Elvis ’57: The Final Fifties Tours, I delved into the essence of Elvis’s stage shows during that remarkable era. Interestingly, despite the changes that occurred during his hiatus from live performances, Elvis remained true to his remarkable style and spirit both in the 1950s and 1970s.
The Allure of Portland, Oregon
To truly understand the evolution of Elvis’s stage presence, we must select one city to compare his performances across the two decades. Let’s focus on Portland, Oregon, as it witnessed Elvis at the pinnacle of his career in 1957 and 1970.
Elvis in His Prime: 1957
Elvis’s appearance in Portland on September 2, 1957, marked one of the final concerts of that decade. By this time, he had transformed from the raw and wild performer of his early years into a polished showman. With a string of hit records under his belt, Elvis had mastered the art of captivating and manipulating his audience’s emotions. His concerts drew massive crowds, and he was undeniably at the top of his game.
The Comeback Tour: 1970
Thirteen years later, on November 11, 1970, Elvis returned to Portland (and I had the privilege of seeing him the following night in Seattle). After honing his skills during three Las Vegas engagements, Elvis had recently embarked on a comeback tour. Portland was only the ninth city he visited in the new decade. Once again, Elvis’s playlist included a collection of recent hits that left his fans yearning for more. His star power remained undiminished after his self-imposed absence from the stage.
A Glimpse into the Past: A Comparison of the Two Shows
Comparing the two Portland shows held 13 years apart reveals both striking differences and familiar elements that underscored Elvis’s timeless appeal.
Venue and Crowd Dynamics
In 1957, Elvis performed outdoors on a portable stage at the Multnomah Stadium, with a crowd predominantly composed of screaming teenage girls. In contrast, the 1970 concert took place indoors at the Portland Memorial Coliseum, attracting a more diverse crowd of fans, including mothers and matrons. Elvis’s performances had transcended generational boundaries, and his fans had grown with him.
Stage Personnel and Deportment
During the 1957 show, Elvis shared the stage with just five singers and three musicians. However, in 1970, he was accompanied by a larger ensemble, including six musicians from the TCB Band and nine background singers. Elvis’s stage deportment also underwent a transformation. In the 1950s, his performances were characterized by his iconic gyrations, while in 1970, he displayed a more controlled stage presence, directing the band and captivating the audience with his movements.
Undoubtedly, the songs performed by Elvis showcased both the evolution of his music and the changing times. The 1957 show featured hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up,” and “Hound Dog,” while the 1970 concert included iconic songs like “Suspicious Minds,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Although the playlists differed significantly, a few common songs bridged the two eras, serving as a reminder of Elvis’s enduring legacy.
Sound and Technology
One of the most significant differences between the two shows was the advancement in sound system technology. In 1957, Elvis’s voice struggled to overcome the weak amplifiers and small box speakers, which were insufficient for such massive open-air venues. However, by 1970, concert sound systems had greatly improved, allowing the audience to experience Elvis’s powerful voice and the full range of his music. The technological advancements also meant that even slight mistakes or flubbed words were more noticeable, and Elvis’s performance received both praise and critique from reviewers.
Unchanging Fan Frenzy
Amidst all the differences between the two concerts, one constant remained: the frenzy and devotion of Elvis’s female fans. Whether it was the girl who climbed the façade of the Multnomah Hotel in 1957 or the college girls who snagged a sip of Elvis’s mineral water in 1970, their passion and dedication to the King never wavered.
Throughout his remarkable career, Elvis Presley left an indelible mark on the world of music. His performances in Portland, Oregon, in 1957 and 1970 highlighted his evolution as an artist while retaining the essence that made him a cultural phenomenon. Despite the changes in style, technology, and fan dynamics, the spirit of Elvis on stage remained unwavering. His shows were a testament to his enduring appeal and musical genius.
To explore the fascinating world of Elvis Presley and delve deeper into his iconic performances, visit All about Elvis. Because, let’s be honest, who can resist the allure of the King?