I had tickets to see Elvis in Las Vegas in August of 1974. My connection knew the maitre d’ and had set us up for a good table. It didn’t pan out. Then on March 30, 1977 Elvis was in concert in Alexandria, LA, where I lived at the time. It was a great concert complete with J.D. Sumner, four female backup singers, and musicians to rival the Tonight Show Band. There was the now-famous announcement at the close, “Elvis has left the building.“ Five months later he was really gone.
Shreveport, LA has a unique connection with Vegas other than former governor Edwin Edwards and casinos. The Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium was home to a country music show called The Louisiana Hayride. First a radio, then later a television show. Radio station KWKH -AM was the flagship station for the Louisiana Hayride and it would soon be heard on a regional network of 25 stations. Elvis performed on the radio show in 1954 and then the TV show in March of 1955 — twenty-two years to the month before I saw him.
Cirque du Soleil opened Viva Elvis at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas earlier this year (2010) to pay tribute to the life and music of The King. According to the press release, this production “focuses on the essential humanity of the one superstar whose name will forever be linked with the history of Las Vegas: Elvis Presley.”
Viva Elvis: The Album includes twelve tracks from the show two of which are instrumentals and ten are The King himself. Every track is a re-mix by accomplished producers including three by Grammy Award winner Brendan O’Brien of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen fame. Accompanying Elvis are the added voices of Dean Norberg, Jennlee Shallow, Sherry St-Germain and Stacie Tabb. Throughout the CD are dubbed-in comments from announcers, movie scenes and Ed Sullivan.
True to form as in most of Elvis’s live performances, the album opens with “Also Sprach Zarathustra” which morphs into a electronica-ised “Blue Suede Shoes”. And we’re off to the races as Viva Elvis – The Album turns up the heat and the velocity as it dashes through a representative sampling of The King’s mastery of genres from Delta blues, gospel and Southern folk to movie soundtracks and Vegas pop.
“Heartbreak Hotel” alone covers several genres as it begins with what could easily have become a gospel number and then slides into a few bars of hard rock that changes into a big band climax only to end in an almost “unplugged” finale. “Aura Lea” (as are all the songs included) is given a significant measure of respect due The King and is one of the songs where a female duet is mixed in.
“King Creole” is another track from an Elvis movie and begins with a clip from the movie trailer as the announcer states the premise. Brass, hip-hop, rap and Elvis go together really well! “He bends some strings and that’s all she wrote! He don’t stop playing till his guitar breaks!”
Viva Elvis — The Album will be available everywhere on November 9. You won’t be able to help falling in love (with The King) again. Some things were just meant to be!