Ever wonder why there are so many Elvis fans out there and why they are so fanatical about loving Elvis music; almost setting him to God-like status? So maybe you think to yourself, yeah I’ve heard an Elvis tune here or there before, invariably the songs like “Jailhouse Rock”, “Love me tender”, or “That’s all right.” Of course who hasn’t? His classic 50’s stuff is great, but why would you dig any deeper? Isn’t that all his best stuff? If you asked me or almost any other Elvis fan in the world we would say, “What are you talking about? Some of his best stuff is in the later period.” Surprised? Check out “That’s the way it is.” A live album capturing non-other-than “The King” at the Hilton in Vegas in 1970 at the absolute height of his powers...karate kicks and all.
Questionably the best live concert ever committed to wax; this show truly pulls no punches. Elvis who spared no expense, was backed by a full band of some of the top musicians money could buy (Elvis liked the best). If that weren’t enough he had a horn and string Orchestra backing him and not one but two Gospel groups (The Sweet Inspirations and The Imperials). But I think the most important thing we can pull from this album is the fact that we see a man who was hungry to prove himself; a man that needed to show everyone that he was still the best and no one could touch him. Not an easy thing to do when you’ve been away for 10 years making B-movies and listening to a guy tell you to sing crappy songs so it makes you more money. Not exactly a creative environment to be coming from.
It’s also important to understand that by the time of this recording the landscape had totally changed. I mean totally; none of the 50’s guys where even spoken of in pop culture. Heck the British Invasion was even a thing of the past. This was the very beginning of the 70’s, and bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were just new to the scene. So here comes a guy in a white rhinestone jumpsuit claiming he is still “The King” jumping around doing Karate Kicks with a track record that was more dangerous than Sabbath and Zeppelin combined. God knows what the new generation thought? But it is important to realize that this was a man who totally dominated, even when the cards seemed stacked against him.
Its hard today to understand how big Elvis was or the impact Elvis had on music. It is also hard to comprehend how talented and entertaining this man truly was. What I find most fascinating about Elvis is that whenever you see live footage of any of his concerts, the first thing that strikes you is you can’t take your eyes off the guy. You are almost afraid to look somewhere else for fear you might miss something that he will do or sing on stage. He is constantly keeping you guessing and entertained, a total performer like nobody else. It’s almost weird how even stuff that you would think couldn’t ever possibly work (and there is a lot of that with Elvis) he somehow pulls off. He would start a song and completely capture you, and then halfway through crack a joke taking you completely out of the moment and almost at the snap of his fingers pull you back into the song like you never left. Why? I have no idea; but Elvis knew. That was some kind of voodoo talent that only came to Elvis and him alone.