Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 25, 2020

Elvis Presley, Las Vegas Residency 1, July-August 1969 (56 shows)

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ELVIS LIVE 1969

Elvis Presley, Las Vegas Residency 1,  31 July- 28 August 1969 (57 shows)

I’m hoping to eventually discuss here on the KSE blog each of Elvis Presley’s  15 residencies in Las Vegas between 1969 and 1976, adding up to 636 performances, every one sold out. Each residency has a unique identity and flavor, and each is worthy of separate investigation, with references to available recordings from each for those who wish to have your own audience with The King in your home. I have multiple shows from throughout each residency, and I keep them separated so it’s easy for me to listen to multiple shows from the same week, or back-to-back shows from the same evening (he did both a dinner show and a midnight show most of the time).

A good place to start is the review I did for Ugly Things magazine of the 11-CD ELVIS LIVE 1969 box set that RCA issued last year, 11 complete concerts, beautifully and respectfully presented, each show like lightning in a bottle. This review was written for a general audience (ie, not for the Elvis community) and is relatively brief. Future writeups will be in more detail and focus on particular shows within the run. Ladies and gentlemen, ELVIS in Las Vegas, Summer 1969.

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ELVIS PRESLEY—Live 1969 (RCA) 11-CD box

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Elvis’ 1969 return to Las Vegas (he’d played it with Scotty and Bill back in 1956, but the town wasn’t ready for him, and he wasn’t ready for it), RCA has assembled a box-set of every surviving soundboard recording of a complete show from the Summer 1969 season, 11 shows from the second half of this residency, often with both dinner and midnight shows from the same day. The setlists are 90% the same, and Elvis’ comments to the audience are similar for most shows. Is the box worth $100+? Well, back in the day, fans would save up all year and travel to Vegas, get a cheap room, and see every show for a week straight. This box is the closest thing to that experience today, 50 years later (all we need is a casino buffet and some watery cocktails!).

With hindsight, we can see that in many ways the 1969 Vegas shows were an extension of the exciting “live-in-the-studio” sequences of the 1968 comeback TV special. He wasn’t yet using the 2001 theme as his entrance music, J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet hadn’t yet joined the act (so there are none of the “dive-bomber” low vocal tricks that were a staple of Elvis’ 70’s live show), and Kathy Westmoreland had not yet joined the group with her operatic high-voice harmonies, so these 1969 shows don’t sound like the more familiar 70-76 Vegas shows. Elvis includes songs that were highlights of the TV special such as Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and the Sun blues classic “Tiger Man”, and he provides a comedic version of his career highlights in a monologue in most shows, functioning like the “story” sections of the 68 comeback special

The band blasts out of the box at the start of each show with a blistering version of “Blue Suede Shoes,” and throughout every concert, the guitar of James Burton is upfront and all over. There is a Vegas pit-band behind the core rock and roll group (Burton, John Wilkinson, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, and Charlie Hodge—Larry Mahoberac is on keyboards, as former Cricket Glen D. Hardin had not yet joined Elvis) and the Sweet Inspirations vocal group (who stayed with Elvis until the end), but the orchestra stays in the background (or maybe they were lessened in this modern remix), fortunately. Some may need only the 2-LP version, with just one concert, which RCA also released recently, but for those ready for that week-long trip to Vegas with two Elvis shows a day, this box will take you there.

(originally published in 2019 in Ugly Things magazine)

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I wasn’t able to find an official release video from RCA on this box, but I did find one of those record collector-oriented “unboxing” videos, so here that is for your enjoyment.

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If you don’t mind bootleg-quality sound, there is an excellent show from earlier in the run than what’s documented on the 11-cd box set, on the Straight Arrow label’s album STRIKE LIKE LIGHTNING, from the August 8, 1969 Midnight Show, which came out a year or two ago and can still be found from online dealers. However, you can listen to it free below:

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If you prefer soundboard-quality recordings, here is the Dinner Show from August 10:

 

These two shows do not appear on the 1969 LIVE box set.

Stay tuned for future discussions of various Elvis residencies in Las Vegas….will try to have another one up within the next two months.

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