August 22 - Kansas City 1974 Reviewed

When the Millbranch Music import-label announced the release of ‘Kansas City 1974 Revisited’, containing a previously unreleased soundboard recording, an audio upgrade of a known concert and high quality 8mm footage of the two Kansas City shows on DVD, it made some heads turn as the label was not known for releasing this kind of material. The label’s track-record was limited to ‘The Bicentennial King Vol. 1 to 5’ featuring audience recordings.

A new unreleased soundboard and good 8mm footage featuring Elvis in a good mood during one of the better tours of the seventies was a no brainer for some fans while others noted that they would wait for the Follow that Dream label to release these concerts. But with so many great bootleg releases still untouched by the FTD label until today - and knowing that the collector label has released several shows from this tour - what is wisdom? 


Design

The Kansas City set comes housed in an attractive six-panel digi-pack with a modern design that gives a nod to the album designs from back when the concerts were recorded. 

Inside we get three collages of pictures, tickets and newspaper-clippings behind the discs and an original review. Due to the purple font-color I couldn’t read the date and due to the font-size it was hard to read the review. The review was spot on regarding Elvis in 1974, his music, shows and fans. Leaving out the pictures next to the original review creating space for a bigger font would have been a better choice for a fanbase that isn’t getting any younger.






Content

The set contains soundboard recordings of the June 29, 1974 Afternoon and Evening Show performances. These shows were part of Elvis’ 11th tour, playing 25 sold-out concerts for over 300,000 enthusiastic fans. 

The evening performance was previously released on the 1995 Fort Baxter ‘A Profile’ box-set. The sound of that first release of the evening show was a bit dull (some say “muddy”) and it ran too slow. This new version is relevant for fans as it was mixed to stereo and speed corrected and sounds much more alive and therefor more enjoyable. 


Audio

Some fans may have a reservations when it comes to mixing mono sources into stereo, but with technology improving the results get better and these two shows sound great. The balance sounds good, it has an excellent stereo effect with good separation, Elvis positioned nicely in the middle and pretty much all instruments are audible. Personally I can appreciate that the MBM label made the effort to present this material in the best way (they think) possible.

As the tapes used for this set were incomplete, the Afternoon Show was completed with ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ (Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth TX. Afternoon Show, June15, 1974 and the only mono track) and the Evening Show was completed with tracks recorded at the Omaha Civic Auditorium, June 30 1974 Afternoon Show. Comparing the two shows, the sound on the second disc is a bit better than the sound on disc 1. 


Evening Show 

As the Evening Performance was released and reviewed before I’ll summarize the review as a very enjoyable show, Elvis in a good mood and delivers some entertaining performances of ‘Trying To Get To You’, a strong ‘Polk Salad’ a beautiful version of his new single ‘Help Me’, “Bridge Over Troubled Water’ with a reprise and a nice version of Olivia Newton John’s ‘Let Me Be There’. 

And there was some on stage humor too. With so many songs starting with “well well well” he comments “well, well ... I just don't know which one I'm gonna do" jumping into ‘When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again’, cutting that short after one sentence moving to ‘Blue Christmas’ before remembering the “well, well wells” were part of the ‘I Got A Woman / Amen’ medley in this early stage of his show. With Elvis changing songs so quickly, it is great to hear - but also see - his band following him almost instantly. 

A fun moment, showing Elvis humorous side, is when he gets a big stuffed gorilla from some fans and he says: “I told the Colonel to stay of the stage". He later comments "You're really a good audience ladies and gentlemen. Really, to pay money to put over that kind of stuff you got to be good". 


Afternoon Show

The first of the highlights on this set is of course the previously unreleased soundboard of the Afternoon Show performance. It is great to have a new show in soundboard quality, especially with import-labels struggling to release something new or interesting. 

Elvis started the show with ‘See See Rider’ and you immediately hear he is in a good mood opening with some energy. He extends the dive-bomber routine on ‘Amen’ with J.D. a bit too much though. 

‘Love Me’ is nice and you hear our man had to work on ‘Trying To get To You’ while ‘All Shook Up sounds like a walk-through. Listening to the audience, he gives the audience ‘fever’ with this song (or “acne” as Elvis changes the lyrics). But this version is performed a bit too loose to really swelter as it did on the original. 

The latter song is a good illustration of what the reviewer in the original review noted. Shaking his “fruit of the loom” - or just any part of his body - still makes the girls react like they did 20 years ago. Visiting an Elvis concert is part about “Elvis The Man” and part about “Elvis The Singer”. The great thing about this MBM set is that we get both!

‘Polk Salad Annie” is nice, but again, not sweltering as it should. Although Duke Bardwell plays his parts well, he is not as prominently setting the tempo with his bass as Jerry did. The same goes for ‘Suspicious Minds’ which is o.k. as Elvis plays around a bit too much which doesn’t make it the rocker it once was. It sounds more like a crowd-pleaser and they like it. 

After the long band introductions we get I’ Can’t Stop Loving You’ on which we hear some of the power his voice had. The new single ‘Help Me’ is performed seriously illustrating the kind of material Elvis liked and almost always delivered good on stage. An enjoyable version of ‘Bridge’ confirms this. Although not as strong as in 1970, it is still great to listen to Elvis singing this classic, especially with his voice nice up-front in the mix. It shows “Elvis the Singer”.

We go a bit poppy with ‘Let Me be There’, a song he obviously loved to perform. ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ gets the crowds screaming again. Nice to hear Ronny imitating a clock with his drumsticks at the end of ‘time is ticking away”. Never noticed that before. The reprise going down again with J.D. is unnecessary. Reprises always feel like going back a step into the show.

On ‘Big Boss Man’ he shows who’s the “big boss entertainer” you can’t help singing along in your head with this one. Here J.D.’s low voice in the back really adds to the song. ‘Steamroller’ lacks Jerry’s low bass again, but still has enough “rhythm and blues” to make this one of the better performances of this afternoon show. 

Overall the Afternoon show is enjoyable, but it isn’t as solid as the Evening Show. Elvis talks less, although there is plenty of interaction with the audience. He saved the best (vocal) performances for the end of the show.


DVD

More than the audio, the DVD was the highlight of this set. It really made the concerts come alive. The DVD features a new HD transfer - it isn’t sourced from the ‘From Kansas City To Sin City’ set - and it looks excellent for this kind of material on the big TV screen. 

It features a documentary on Elvis June 1974 tour with facts, interviews, news- and candid footage and of course, Rex Martin's 8mm footage of the Kansas City June 29, 1974 Afternoon and Evening Shows, carefully synced with the soundboard audio creating a real concert experience. Other footage includes Philadelphia (June 23 1974 Evening Show) and Kansas City (November 15, 1971 and June 18, 1977 Evening Shows). 

The set opens with a newly created clip of 'Burning Love' - from 'On Tour' - showing a wide variety of Elvis footage followed by a small text introduction, setting the scene for the 'June 1974 Tour', captured in Kansas. Next we see exited fans before a concert (Fort Worth) and the arrival of Elvis’ plane and the band getting ready for the transfer from the airport to the hotel or venue. A glimpse of “life on the road” from June '74. This is followed by a short explanation of the contributions of the performers, highlighting J.D. Sumner and his Stamps Quartet with some concert clippings

Some of this footage is very (very) raw, but it’s inclusion is necessary to paint the complete picture. The overdubbed audio is good. It is interesting to see J.D. having fun and fooling around on stage as I always imagined that his performances were a bit more serious, in line with the nature of his gospel repertoire. 

The concert-footage comes in great quality, both video and audio. The Evening Show is filmed from “close by” so you really see the expression on Elvis’ face. The Afternoon show is filmed from further back showing the stage and zooming in on Elvis. Both with matching soundboard-audio that sounds great.

This DVD is made to sit back and enjoy Elvis in concert on a big screen. As we all know how Elvis sounded, and we saw him perform through photographs, this set makes these concerts come alive. So great to see our man perform, playing with the band and the audience. O.K. the hips aren’t gyrating like in the fifties, he is not tearing the stage apart like in 1969, he is not the slim-looking 1970 Las Vegas showman, no, he is a mature entertainer who knows how to please his fans. And he does! It is great to see that the reaction of the girls is still the same as in the fifties. 

Watching Elvis perform explains almost everything we are used to hear on live recordings. Why he gears up and where he has to catch his breath, where he interacts with his fans and how this affects his performance and when fans demand too much and he corrects them. But also how he interacts with his bad and backing singers. He is really in touch with J.D., laying his hand on his shoulder various times during the performance. I never noticed such small things before. 

The Sean Shaver footage from 1971 shows Elvis in real great shape rockin' with ‘That's All Right' and 'Hound Dog'. And what a difference to the Elvis from June 18, 1977 at Kemper Arena (Gary Hiland footage). Although the girls still scream, it's hard and a bit painful to watch Elvis like this. 

Just like on the CBS Special we see Charlie Hodge help him with a microphone. Looking at the expression on Charlies he feels the pain of his friend really having to work to get the performance right. Charlie looks almost happy that his friend manages to deliver the goods. 

One touching and fun moment is when Elvis sings 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' with Charlie still standing next to him. It’s like he is singing the lyrics especially for him. Elvis sees it, the audience sees it and Charlie sees it, all having a laugh but finishing the song well. It showed our man still had it, and when he found the right groove, he could deliver a nice - and fun - performance. 

The DVD ends with a touching clip of Elvis entering the Lisa Marie at Kansas City airport and taking off into the sky, set to music of 'Danny Boy'. 


Conclusion

The conclusion is simple. This really is a great and very complete set. Not only does it bring a previously unreleased soundboard of an entertaining concert, it also gives us a new and pretty complete concert experience. All housed in a pretty package. 

With bootleg labels struggling to come up with something new and interesting, the Millbranch Music label unexpectedly delivered the goods. Don’t hesitate to add this to your collection.