The setting was nothing more than spectacular, a packed arena, bathed in tropical night time air, the performer's name depicted in various styles and transformed into lights above the stage, and the extended runway for the artist to do his stuff and interact with the audience, but this was more than an event for only the watching crowd, this was a broadcasting milestone, the first ever entertainment show to be beamed live by satellite around the world, and the name in lights was Elvis Presley. Colonel Tom Parker had excelled himself this time, but the rollercoaster year Elvis experienced meant that Parker had been forced to pull out all the stops to get Elvis focused again. On the positive side, Elvis had played his first ever dates in New York, four sell-out shows at Madison Square Garden, in June 1972 that had the east coast critics singing his praises, and the Colonel had ensured that he was getting enough dates to satisfy Elvis' desire to play live. Worrying though five singles had failed to reach the top 30 earlier in the year, Elvis and Priscilla had formally separated, and at times he seemed to be bored. Taking refuge in prescription drugs, Elvis' weight and moods swung rapidly, he needed something new to get him out of this slump.
On the last night of Elvis' traditional summer season at the Las Vegas Hilton, in September 1972, the Colonel held a press conference to announce the outcome of negotiations he had been having with RCA and broadcaster NBC. In January Elvis would be performing a ground-braking show in Hawaii that would be transmitted worldwide by satellite to an estimated i.4 Billion people, the largest figure in television history. For the Colonel, who always prided himself on a reputation for being able to secure the biggest and the best, it was an exceptional deal even by his standards, he said this was Elvis' chance to give something back to his fans around the world, though the singer's $900,00 appearance fee ensured that Aloha From Hawaii was one of the most lucrative business deals Parker ever secured.
The show would comprise of a warm-up date on January 12th, followed by a live satellite broadcast in the early hours of the 14th, there would be no admission charge, but a voluntary contribution to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund, Lee was a famous Hawaiian musician who died in 1966, the same year Elvis recorded one of Lee's songs "I'll Remember You".
Once plans got underway, Elvis threw himself into preparations with gust, going on a crash diet that saw him lose 25 pounds of excess weight he had gained over the year, for the first time in months, Elvis was invigorated, even designing his own stage outfit, Bill Belew was given full rein to design all Elvis' costumes since 1968, but this time it was different, Elvis wanted this outfit to be special, something very American, and what better than the American Eagle motif. Belew created the jumpsuit and cape, but when Elvis tried on the cape the day before the show, it was so heavy that he couldn't move in it, so Belew was forced to make a shorter version of it.
NBC picked an experienced producer-director Marty Pasetta for the show. Having been unimpressed by a couple of Elvis' live performances, Pasetta outlined his plans for a glitzy stage set and backdrop to give the show energy he thought it required. The Colonel was totally against it, but Elvis was enthusiastic, and work began almost immediately on building the massive set, which would be put together on the mainland and then shipped over to Hawaii.
Elvis and his entourage that included this new girlfriend Linda Thompson, arrived in Hawaii on January 9th 1973, Elvis was airlifted by helicopter to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where rehearsals would be held until the stage was assembled, he rehearsed with the band, backing singers and full orchestra over the next two days, and on the 12th he rehearsed at the International Convention Centre Arena in Honolulu, where the performances were to be held.
At 8:30pm, the dress rehearsal show began, this was to be identical the the satellite show, but taped as a back up in case something went wrong during the live broadcast.
At 12:30 the following night, Elvis took to the stage in a concert that was broadcast live to most countries in the far east, and later that day to 28 European nations, the show notched up the highest ever viewing figures for a TV programme in Japan, and when shown in the US on April 4th, it was watch in more homes than had tuned in to watch man's first walk on the moon.
Those first viewers in Asia saw Elvis arriving by helicopter and being greeted like visiting royalty, the film then cuts to the live broadcast, where Marty Pasetta's stage set is spectacular, a black backdrop through which the word Elvis is illuminated in coloured lights, and a huge flashing guitar toting figure. Elvis enters the dramatic strains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", and starts singing "See, See Rider".
At some point during the show, Elvis seems a little restrained and nervous, possibly aware of the significance of the event, but he soon warms up to the task, particularly during the more up-tempo numbers, for fans who prefer the slow songs, there was enough to keep them happy, including "My Way", "Something", and the powerful "I Can't Stop Loving You".
Some of his older hits, such as "Hound Dog" also make it in to the show as do more recent hits, including a rousing version of "Suspicious Minds", and when he eases himself in to the Karate move that traditionally accompanies the number's finale, Elvis finds time to joke about the suit. Another highlight is "Steamroller Blues", which Elvis delivers with raw appeal that endeared him to his legions of fans, the emotional climax is a thrilling performance of "An American Trilogy", and a couple of numbers later the show ends with "Can't Help Falling In Love". Elvis throws his cape into the audience and exits the stage.
It had been a triumphant high, there was no technical hitches in the broadcast, triple the $25,000 that had been hoped to be raised for the charity, and Elvis' music had been beamed in to millions of homes across the globe, although Elvis seems a bit lacklustre during the show, against the his energetic shows from 1970, Elvis still enjoyed the show, as had his manager, who had written a heartfelt letter to Elvis just a couple of hours after the show had finished, in it he told Elvis how special he felt their relationship was, "You above all make all of it work by being the leader and the talent." Once again the Colonel set it up and Elvis delivered.
Also Sprach Zarathustra
See See Rider
You Gave Me A Mountain
Johnny B Goode
Blue Suede Shoes
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
I Can't Stop Loving You
What Now My Love
Welcome To My World
Introductions By Elvis
I'll Remember You
Long Tall Sally
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Big Hunk O' Love
Can't Help Falling In Love
Rehearsal Concert, 12th January 1973
Concert for Television, 14th January 1973. Seen via satellite, live and tape delay, in many countries, Aired in US on 4th April 1973.
International Convention Center Arena
Elvis Presley - Vocals, Guitar
James Burton - Guitar
John Wilkinson - Rhythm Guitar
Charlie Hodge - Guitar, Vocals
Jerry Scheff - Bass Guitar
Ronnie Tutt - Drums
Glen D. Hardin - Piano
J.D Sumner & The Stamps Quartet - Vocals
The Sweet Inspirations - Vocals
Kathy Westmoreland - Vocals
Joe Guercio And His Orchestra
Director / Producer
60 minutes (including commercials)