Elvis second show of his third Las Vegas season was the Dinner Show of 11 August 1970 and was the second of six consecutive shows to be recorded by RCA and filmed by the movie cameras of MGM.
In the final cut of the subsequent movie ‘Elvis – That’s The Way It Is’ only two from the opening night were included and even at that one of those was only played over the opening credits. Those songs from the second show which did not end up on the cutting room floor would be among the best three in the movie and one of those would become an iconic Elvis moment.
The 2001 re-edited movie would remove two of those original three, much to the incredulity of many fans, and replace them with four others from this show. The original three were ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’, ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. Of that trio only ‘Loving Feeling’ was retained in 2001 but new additions were ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘Love Me Tender’, ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ which was a direct swap with the rendition from 12 August Midnight Show.
At the point of the release of the reedited movie Elvis’ rendition of ‘Bridge’ was and probably still is relatively unknown out with the Elvis community although things could change with the new version featuring the London Philharmonic Orchestra being the ‘B’ side to the new ‘If I Can Dream’ single. This and the fact that it was still no more than a closing album track was likely a consideration in the decision to preclude it’s inclusion in the new movie. It is the quality of Elvis’ performance in that makes the decision more difficult to understand although many will point to the Greensboro version from April 72 which was included in ‘Elvis On Tour’ as their favourite.
Taking the same decision with ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’ is the one omission from the new movie which is far more difficult to comprehend. The recording from this show would become the RCA master as Elvis never did a studio recording of the song and it would be selected as the opening song of the TTWII studio album. On the back of the original movie it was released as a 7” single, initially in the UK, and subsequently elsewhere in the world but never in the US and it reached #6 in the UK charts.
Still played regularly in the UK on BBC Radio 2 it has become synonymous with Elvis despite it being a hit for B.J. Thomas just a couple of months prior to this recording and the song is now considered an iconic Elvis recording. If Elvis had indeed decided to make a studio recording of this song, in Nashville during June 1970 for example, would it have been any better than this performance which became the RCA master? I personally have my doubts since this is beyond perfection and as such I must nail my colours to the mast and admit that this is my all-time favourite Elvis recording.
To create a musical masterpiece within the studio environment, eg Suspicious Minds, is one thing when you have a top rate producer (Chips Moman) a single minded determined artist (Elvis) and the best possible material and tools (the song and band) where you can take as many takes as necessary. This version shows Elvis at his very, very best as the vocal is relaxed yet powerful, both band and orchestra are virtually flawless. Elvis' singing of the word 'girl' at the end of the first verse is almost unbelievable!
To make a classic like this in one take in a live environment is something most singers can only aspire to. If there is one line to sum up this song and Bridge Over Troubled Water from later the same show and Elvis Presley in August 1970 in particular it is this - Many can sing but only few can perform!!
Of the four songs from this show which were included in the new movie ‘I can’t Stop Loving You’ is perhaps the one new inclusion from this show which makes most sense. It is an excellent performance by Elvis with that 69-70 roughness still evident in his vocal and edginess in his delivery which would gradually disappear from later versions through the 70’s.
‘I Got A Woman’ whilst new adds nothing to the movie but to give a more accurate representation of the August 1970 Elvis Presley show , ‘Love Me Tender’ appears to be nothing more than change for change’s sake. The swapping versions of ‘Suspicious Minds’ is another anomaly with the 12 August MS version a fitting conclusion both in performance and in perception. The vision of a sweat soaked Elvis, hair a mess and chains on the suit unclasped gives the observer the correct impression of a performer who has given his all for those in attendance. The version from this show whilst still an excellent rendition seems poorer for the lack of that visual impact but it includes the ‘shove it up your nose’ line which would become more common throughout the 70’s.
Also included in this show are the version of ‘I’ve Lost You’ which would be selected for inclusion on the TTWII album, preferred to the studio version and in doing so would create two RCA masters of the song and a fun version of ‘Polk Salad Annie’ with Elvis at his mischievous best.
As Elvis’ boredom with Las Vegas grew after this season his contempt for the Dinner Shows became more apparent as those shows were often much shorter than their Midnight counterparts although the timing was also much to do with the Hotels‘ hierarchy and their desire to get customers back into the casinos. The later dinner shows would also have much less audience interaction and the mood at the Midnight shows would also appear to be much lighter. It must be said that apart from the odd occasion Elvis’ did not let his contempt for the dinner shows affect his professionalism. At this juncture however in the main the Dinner shows were almost as much good value as their Midnight counterparts.
This 11 August 1970 DS remains the only show of the six which has not been released by SONY or RCA/BMG out with the 8CD/2DVD Deluxe set but it is, when all is said and done, an excellent show, perhaps one of THE best Elvis Presley Las Vegas Dinner shows.