Elvis: The Concert, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Take it away, fellas - Elvis still hasn't left the building
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I can still hear that scream. I was only nine years old, and my best friend Sue roped me in to help her do her paper round. Our first stop that summer morning was on Jenner Road, and I dropped the Daily Mirror through the letterbox. For most people, in the days before breakfast television, before the internet and before text messaging, inky headlines were the messengers that broke the news: "ELVIS PRESLEY IS DEAD". When the housewife let out her blood-curdling "Nooo!!!" as I walked back down the path, I shrugged, failing to understand what the fuss was about. But I understand now.

I can still hear that scream. I was only nine years old, and my best friend Sue roped me in to help her do her paper round. Our first stop that summer morning was on Jenner Road, and I dropped the Daily Mirror through the letterbox. For most people, in the days before breakfast television, before the internet and before text messaging, inky headlines were the messengers that broke the news: "ELVIS PRESLEY IS DEAD". When the housewife let out her blood-curdling "Nooo!!!" as I walked back down the path, I shrugged, failing to understand what the fuss was about. But I understand now.

Let me stop your train of thought right there. I know all the arguments against. My own idols have raised them louder than anyone. "Elvis was a hero to most," declaimed Public Enemy's Chuck D. "But he never meant shit to me, you see/ Straight-up racist that sucker was, simple and plain/ Motherfuck him and John Wayne!" Sorry Chuck, I'm with you all the way on the Duke, but we part company on The King.

Presley's much-touted racism is something of an urban myth which can largely be traced to one quote: "The only thing Negro people can do for me is to buy my records and shine my shoes." This quote has long been discredited (Presley himself denied saying it, as early as 1957), but people want to believe it, perhaps because it chimes with the feeling that he robbed black people of their music and sold it on to whitey.

Then came the Manic Street Preachers, who focused (like the author Greil Marcus in his book Dead Elvis) on the tawdry afterlife, but more specifically on the Elvis impersonator industry: "20ft high on Blackpool promenade/ Fake royalty, second-hand sequinned facade/ Limited facepaint, and dyed black quiff/ Overweight and out of date..." But the Elvis they're describing - or at least, the Elvis who is being mimicked - is the Elvis I love.

There are those who fetishise the sepia cool of the Sun Sessions, and curtail their love for Elvis at the exact moment those army clippers sheared his quiff (with a small place in their heart for the '68 Comeback Special). If anything, I'm the opposite. As a small child, one of the first LPs I ever owned was a Seventies Elvis compilation, which doubtless shaped my idea of what a pop star means. For me, it's Fat Elvis all the way.

Elvis: The Concert ("where Elvis never left the building!") is perfect for fellows like me, concentrating as it does solely on the jumpsuit years: Presley's byzantine decline, when he was working as an honorary narc for Nixon while his own private medicine cabinet was better-stocked than the average hospital.

The premise is undoubtedly a weird one. Presley's backing band from the 1970s has been reassembled (or as near as dammit) under the baton of original conductor Joe Guercio, and performs live onstage, while Elvis, via the miracle of cleverly-edited concert footage, sings above their heads on the big screen.

This, given that Presley only set foot on British soil to change planes at Prestwick, is the closest we will ever get to the real thing. And there is something indescribably moving about hearing Elvis himself introducing his TCB Band, James Burton (guitar), Glen D Hardin (piano), Jerry Schuff (bass) and Ronnie Tutt (drums), seeing them as they were back then, with their bad Seventies hair and bad Seventies clothes, then watching their sexagenarian selves step forward and take a bow.

They're still fine musicians: Burton can play the riff to "Johnny B Goode" with half the sex but three times the technique he possessed 30 years ago. But it's Presley, with those dark-hooded, pale blue eyes, apple cheeks and self-mocking smirk (Elvis was fully conscious of the ridiculousness of his persona and of his situation) from whom one cannot avert one's eyes.

He's forever goofing around, talking into four mics at once, and changing the words to his own songs: it's "you can do anything but lay off my white suede shoes"; in "Hound Dog", it's "well you ain't never blibble blibble blibble blibble... friend of mine"; and in "Suspicious Minds", it's "dry the sweat from your eyes." But he's also an incredibly dynamic performer, a tassled blur of kung-fu kicks and windmilling arms. When he isn't administering kisses to an endless queue of Stepford Wives.

Some of the material is cheesier than anything he ever slapped on a burger. But "If I Can Dream", from '68 Comeback, is one of the most electrifying vocal deliveries in the pop canon, his voice raw and ragged as he falls to his knees. His rendition of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" is sufficiently sincere to be truly affecting, whereas "Wonder of You", with that knowing line "you touch my hand... and I'm a King", is a simpler pleasure, the night's enduring earworm. But the night's most shiver-inducing performance, even for an atheist such as I, is his god-bothering epic "An American Trilogy".

There's a moment in the famous live recording which has always haunted me. During a lull before the big finale, a woman - seemingly in response to the lines "So hush little baby, don't you cry/ You know your daddy's bound to die/ And all my trials, Lord, will soon be over..." - lets out a blood-curdling scream. Whenever I hear it, I'm nine years old again.

I glance up at Elvis. I gaze around the costumed Geordie crowd in their comedy Elvis wigs and comedy Elvis sunglasses. I close my eyes, and I think of that woman, I wonder what became of her, and I wonder if she knew what was coming. And I can still hear that scream.

s.price@independent.co.uk

Elvis: The Concert: MEN Arena, Manchester (0870 190 8000), tonight

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