Pulling out the second LP included in the Elvis Aron Presley box set and looking at the cover I'm taken back in time, to the early eighties. For some reason or other, a record store in Stockholm sold the eight records from the set individually, and I went for the one titled An Early Benefit Performance. (I bought the complete box years later.)
Playing the CD version of the record right know, I'm reminded that it was a wise choice. Maybe the sound quality wasn't the best, but what did it matter. This was Elvis' historical U.S.S. Memorial benefit concert, showing just how good Elvis sounded live in the early sixties and at the same time serving as a reminder of what could have been, had Elvis continued doing concerts through the sixties.
As it turned out, the benefit concert performed on March 25, 1961, marked the last of only three live performances (the other two took place in Memphis a month earlier) Elvis did in the early sixties. He wouldn't return to the stage in another eight and a half years (not counting the live recordings done for his NBC TV Special in 1968).
The repertoire that day, exactly 50 years ago, was an exciting one, with about two thirds of the material from Elvis' pre-army days and the rest from his then current catalog. And unlike some of his concerts some ten or fifteen years later, he treated each and every song with the same respect. In fact, he delivered songs like "Heartbreak Hotel" and "One Night" much the same way as he had in the 50's.
But I thought then (listening to the LP), as I do now (listening to the CD), that the most exciting part was Elvis singing his recent songs, such as "Reconsider Baby" (featuring an incredible sax solo by Boots Randolph) and "Such A Night." He even sang "Swing Down Sweet Chariot" from his religious album His Hand In Mine.
All in all, Elvis was in top form that night, full of energy and humor and with a great playing band behind him. To Boots Randolph it was "one of the highlights" of his life, according to Peter Guralnick's book Careless Love. I'm sure glad the tape of the show survived.
Be sure to check out Troy's post The Pacific War Memorial Commission Proudly Presents In Person: Elvis Presley (The Mystery Train Elvis Blog) that inspired me to listen to An Early Benefit Performance.