Elvis Unleashed review – superfluous swagger from the comeback King | Film

Last year, the famous 1968 Elvis Presley TV comeback special was released in cinemas to mark its 50th anniversary. Now here’s a superfluous documentary featuring outtakes from that film’s live sets. Rolling Stone recently described Elvis’s performance in the show as one of the greatest in rock’n’roll history. The King himself was reportedly so shook up by it that he ejaculated into his leather trousers. But I couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed, vaguely repelled even by his preening, smirky stage presence.

In 1968, Elvis hadn’t performed live in seven years after switching to movies, acting in a succession of increasingly ropey productions. For the TV comeback he performed two unplugged sets plus two accompanied by a 45-piece orchestra, dressed throughout in uncomfy skintight black leather, chest exposed, hair slicked back. At 33, he’s still looking good – the days of bloated Vegas Elvis are still to come. But bequiffed and crooning “Do the chairs in your parlour seem empty and bare?” he must have looked seriously quaint to the youthful rebels of 1968.

Still, the TV show was a triumph, proof that the King still had it. And there are some heartstopping moments in the acoustic sets as he jams rhythm and blues with his original bandmates, guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer DJ Fontana. But to be honest, the performance is all swagger and no soul, with Elvis displaying the spoilt petulant air of a man with a large entourage to maintain. And there is something stagey about his interactions with the audience – at one point asking for a handkerchief from a woman in the front row to mop his brow. I’d much rather watch the beautiful boy of 1956 shaping rock’n’roll with his sexually charged performances. This looks a bit like asking the Johnny Depp of today to act the role of Edward Scissorhands.

Source: The Guardian

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