December 7, 2012
The years immediately before Presley slid into bloated self-parody remain fascinating for their mix of spectacle, showmanship and sometimes surprising artistry. This two-CD, one-DVD set documents the singer's Madison Square Garden concerts of June 1972, his first live performances in New York. Adorned in rhinestones, the still-svelte Presley came on like "a glorified stripper" in the words of his drummer, Ronnie Tutt. He meant it as a compliment; the excellent band challenged Presley instead of reverently deferring to him, and the singer sounds determined to reassert his relevance. The DVD includes grainy performance footage shot by a fan using a handheld camera, plus a Presley media conference from the New York stand that's like a performance in itself. On stage, Presley blows out the extremes, cranking the tempo on "That's All Right," plunging deep into the swampy lust of "Polk Salad Annie," milking the drama of "Suspicious Minds" and the melodrama of "An American Trilogy." As last stands go, it's worth hearing if hardly essential.