Take my hand as I take a journey to the past, distant in years but not in my mind. I share it not to boast, but to give as best I can, the beautiful gift of comprehension – a small glimpse of the enormity of an event. It was a phenomenon in a time that we could never imagine ending as we took in all the details of that present day.
Had we known the future, perhaps we could have changed the past.
My timeline may be different from others as I was still in my teens, more concerned with homecoming dances and algebra tests and receiving my learner’s permit. My universe was still quite small and my circle had a condensed diameter, far less than those already immersed in the adult world. Fantasy and romance were read only stories from a sheltered mid 70’s wonder years styled fortress.
It was perhaps several weeks prior, I heard on the the radio Elvis was coming to my town. The idea of tours and itineraries and jockeying for position, following concerts and stars, was foreign to me. The radio and newspaper were our Google search engines of the day.
I begged my father to get tickets and he promised he would. I gave it little thought after that because if he said he would, he would. And he did.
Through a series of serendipitous events I’ve written about before, I later became the recipient of front row tickets as well as the ones purchased – still good seats but certainly not to compare with center stage.
No doubt a full month before, my outfit had been carefully chosen. A fashionable hot pink pantsuit complimented my blond locks and petite figure. Hairstyle and make up were a given. Surely this man would notice me, in my immature fairytale mind. The only thing left was counting down the days, which I anxiously did. I was one of 17,000 plus to him, but he was one in a million to me.
The day finally came and a 2:30 pm concert time had me waltzing through the venue doors by 1:30.
I readily admit there was an absolute joy in showing my ticket and being escorted all the way down front, waltzing past everyone to row one, feet from the stage where he was to be. And there I waited.
Showtime brought the melodious strains from the orchestra, the idyllic voices of J.D Sumner and the Stamps, Jackie Kahane’s lame jokes and the Sweet Inspirations songs – all of whom held no interest to me. Sorry, not sorry. I honestly remember none of it except it couldn’t be over quick enough. Intermission was then another eternity.
Closer to 4 pm, now three long hours since arrival, the ground zero of launch time approached. The anticipation was heavy. I won’t go into the actual concert here but it is the next few paragraphs I really want you to experience with me.
The entire arena was abuzz with an anticipatory air. There was a quiet and heavy density, made more so by the breath holding prolepsis of knowing what was to come. It was the moments before a cannon blasts or a volcano erupts. It was the countdown to midnight while the ball seems to crawl and the ear holding readiness of the pop of a champagne cork. It was the dive off the board but not yet the splash into the pool. Breathing was not only difficult, it needed a gentle push.
The dimming lights seemed out of place as surely there was no shortage of electricity anywhere. The air was charged by the triumphant strains of A Space Odyssey.
2001 wasn’t 25 years hence, it became immediate.
The spotlights seemingly possessed a gravitational pull and the orchestra strengthened their power. My two eyes somehow searched twenty places at once, in strong desire to be the first to spot that head of dark hair ascending the platform, not wanting to miss one second of view. Scanning from corner to corner, top to bottom, side to side, fueled by a charge in the air unlike any event before or since. The moment was at hand. The 16,999 other attendees had vanished and it became solely my experience.
A thunderous and immediate roar refocused my gaze, my heart pounded faster, my breathing got more shallow, and blinding daylight replaced the darkness. Thousands of popping flashbulbs lit the building, the other sights and sounds only slightly remembered. It was in the intensity of the rush of brightness as my sight and mind and heart came together as one, all full to the brim of exploding happiness.
No introduction given, none necessary, Elvis Presley appeared. Like an angel descending from heaven only in a decidedly human manner, the stage became his throne. His glorious ascension before adoring fans were like subjects before a most loving and kind king, one who loved and cared for his citizens as his own. He was far above but still among us. His ease into the role had no hint of ego or arrogance. It was an obvious mutual love affair of man to fan and fan to man. I was so enthralled I could not speak.
He walked the length of the stage, larger than life, a non-predatory prowl from one side to the other, close enough to touch, an acknowledgement and a greeting combined. Gathering his guitar and his stance, the show commenced as the applause and flashes continued. His first sounds greeted the straining ears of the faithful. If love could be a color, a rainbow kaleidoscope would have painted every square inch of the building.
The Elvis experience, like the man himself, is truly unique. It wasn’t a concert but rather an unequaled exceptional proceeding.
I wish every fan could have experienced what I did but I know that is impossible. For those that did, you know firsthand it is a joy both personal and universal, one intensely beautiful, and yet now melancholy, one never to fade, but one that is always lovingly shared with whomever cares to listen.
My hope is that I have been able to provide my readers with a little taste of an amazing and unforgettable thrill of a lifetime.