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Review: Updated classic caps Elvis Week
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Any lingering suspicions that the long-anticipated “Elvis ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ 40th Anniversary Screening” was going to amount to a shared viewing of the familiar television special that’s available for free on YouTube were laid to rest as soon as the lights went down on several thousand Elvis fans who’d assembled to celebrate The King’s “live via satellite” concert last night in Blaisdell Arena.
First, to state the obvious, there is no way that watching anything on a computer screen — or even a “home entertainment center” — can match the experience of seeing it on a theater-size screen and hearing it on an arena sound system.
Second, the 40-year-old television special was dramatically modernized and upgraded for the anniversary screening. The entire concert was re-imagined as a multi-image experience — at times there were two or three images on the giant screen, at others there were 16 or more in various combinations. There was Elvis, or multiples of Elvis, seen from different angles, as well as the familiar footage of his core musicians — James Burton (lead guitar), John Wilkinson (rhythm guitar), Ronnie Tutt (drums), Jerry Scheff (bass), Glen Hardin (piano/keyboards) and Charlie Hodge (vocals/acoustic guitars) — and the audience.
The 40th anniversary screening also included footage of Elvis singing the songs that he recorded after the satellite broadcast for use several months later in the domestic version of the show.
Another segment not seen on YouTube consisted of snippets from trailers of the three Elvis movies with Hawaii ties. These included two scenes from “Girls! Girls! Girls!” where Ginny Tiu and her younger sister, Elizabeth, performed with Elvis, and shots of Ralph “Hana” Hanalei as one of the beach boy musicians in “Blue Hawaii.”
Most memorable of all the additional content were silent film clips of Elvis’ previous visits to Hawaii, including a visit to the Arizona Memorial and footage of his 1957 concert at Honolulu Stadium.
The anniversary event was emceed by “Uncle Tom” Moffatt and its significance noted by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Abercrombie sent a shout out to the people who were seated “right up there in the upper deck” where he had been sitting 40 years ago, and asked everyone who had been in the audience for the original “Aloha from Hawaii” concert to stand — and a notable number of people did. He also read a proclamation designating Jan. 14, 2013, as “Elvis ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ (via) Satellite Day” and encouraged “all the people of the Aloha State to celebrate the music of Elvis Presley.”
Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, accepted the proclamation for display at Graceland.
Later in the evening Moffatt introduced Joe Guercio, Elvis’ conductor and musical director for many years (who is seen briefly in the broadcast), and Elvis’ Stamps, a gospel quartet headed by Bill Baize, who performed in “Aloha from Hawaii” as a member of Elvis’ favorite male gospel group, J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet.
Baize and his partners — David Darst, Ed Hill and Larry Strickland — sang two gospel classics that are important titles in Elvis’ discography, “(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)” and “How Great Thou Art,” and earned a standing ovation for their performance. For anyone who’s grown up with gospel music it was hard to not sing along.
The bottom line to the evening, and to the week of celebrating Elvis and his ties to Hawaii, was about more than commemorating an entertainment milestone 40 years on. It was remembering — or, perhaps, learning — that before there were Elvis impersonators mumbling “thankyuverrymuch,” and tribute artists and look-alikes and “weekend warrior” karaoke singers, there was a flesh-and-blood entertainer named Elvis Presley who created something fresh and new and revolutionary in American music.
So much that the entertainers of today and their fans take for granted began with Elvis.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.