Rhinestone Crusader

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Thirty years later sweat still pours off his face and mats his hair by the end of the show. Elvis has retraced his life's journey; he has sung songs of elation ("Burning Love") and trials too hard to bear ("You Gave Me a Mountain"), a litany of his earliest hits ("Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel," "Heartbreak Hotel"), and his final chart-topper ("Suspicious Minds"). He has been building toward the most autobiographical selections in his, or for that matter, anybody's repertoire. He tears through "My Way," biting down on every line, before launching into "An American Trilogy," the song (really three songs) that, as much as any other, became a staple of his concert performances.

It is the ideal selection with which to close the show. Beginning with "Dixie," a fantasy of Southern sovereignty, then segueing into the old slave spiritual "All My Trials," before climaxing with "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the trilogy re-enacts an epic journey through division, suffering, and reconciliation. Elvis renders each song intimately, suggesting that the lyrics are as much about him as they are about us -- and vice versa. It is an illusion of solidarity, of course, a particularly distant one as our most recent election has shown. No matter, the feeling the man brought to the song endures. A woman in the Sunrise audience screams out his name. Some chuckle politely. Most don't seem to notice the incongruity of her cry.

Dead Elvis can't help but sing one last song, a curtain call of sorts, "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You." He walks over to one of his sidemen, who helps him into a cape. The performers onstage wait for him to give the sign. He does. "Shall I stay?/Would it be a sin?" he sings. Then he tears off the cape and flings it out into the audience. No one reaches out to catch it. The band strikes up the traveling music, and Elvis exits from the stage on the screen. For old times sake, the Sunrise announcer informs the crowd that Elvis has, indeed, left the building. For good.

Or not quite. A large portion of the audience moves toward the stage, where they are greeted, patiently, politely, even gratefully, by Elvis's old crew. Burton, Scheff, Hardin, Tutt, Guercio, along with the Sweets and Imperials, stand in a line on the edge of the stage, leaning down and shaking one hand after another. You'd think somebody was running for office.

Elvis for Everyone!

Chris MacDonald performs his "Memories of Elvis" stage show every Friday night at Brazil, Brazil, 3485 N Federal Hwy (US 1 just north of Oakland Park Blvd), Fort Lauderdale. For info call 954-561-8200. MacDonald can be reached for booking at 954-341-6005 or on the Web at www.chrismacdonaldselvis.com

Gene Allen does the King thing every other Thursday night at Saluté Restaurant in the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1100 SE 17th St Cswy, Fort Lauderdale. For show info call 954-527-2730. Allen can be contacted directly at 954-815-1213

Joe Trites will take his Elvis tribute show anywhere, anytime. Call 954-792-0702 or e-mail [email protected]

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Gaspar González