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October 30, 2014

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Elvis: On Stage (Legacy Edition) review

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Elvis, On Stage (Legacy Edition)

Now that all the hoopla has died down around Cirque's Viva Elvis, it's time to hear what the legend and the hype was built on.

RCA has just released a deluxe Legacy Edition of live anthology On Stage, focusing on Presley's first two residencies at the Las Vegas Hilton, then called the International Hotel. These 1969-70 shows marked a comeback of sorts for Elvis — who had spent eight years prioritizing crappy movies over music — and for Vegas, too, which was revitalized by his star power.

Everything here has been heard before — there are literally hundreds of Elvis reissues and compilations out there — but On Stage is a primo repackaging of peak Presleyiana, with superior sound, augmented with 10 bonus tracks, for a total of 32 songs on two CDs.

The superb TCB band, which included James Burton, Glen D. Hardin and the Sweet Inspirations, is both tight and loose, and the King's singing is, well Elvish, hot-rocking on some songs ("Polk Salad Annie") and corny and lugubrious on others (Englebert Humperdink's "Release Me"). He does his own hits, too, of course, but it's surprising how current for the time — and how pop — Elvis' repertoire and styling was. Early in the set, he introduces a song by a newcomer named Neil Diamond — that would be "Sweet Caroline."

Above all, On Stage shows a relaxed side of Elvis, who is clearly enjoying himself, flirting with the crowd, joking and joshing the band. After listening to this set, I finally "got" Elvis.

— Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly

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