Priscilla Presley reflects on Elvis' legacy before bringing his music to Baltimore

With 'Elvis: Live in Concert,' Elvis Presley is still taking to the stage, even 40 years after his death

Priscilla Presley says she can still hear Elvis Presley when she walks through the doors of his Memphis, Tenn., home, Graceland. And Friday at the Modell Lyric, she believes his fans will get somewhat the same experience.

“When I walk in the door, I still hear the music that he played, the gospel music,” says Presley, 72. “It’s just as if I’ve gone back in time. I see him coming down the stairs, laughing.”

With luck, fans may get the same sort of feeling at the Lyric, as “Elvis: Live in Concert” brings films of The King in performance, backed by a live 48-piece orchestra, including members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. For someone who’s approaching the 40th anniversary of his death, Priscilla says her former husband is still connecting amazingly well with his audiences.

“There’s a whole new generation who appreciates him, and an older generation that loves him dearly,” says Priscilla, freshly returned to the U.S. from taking “Elvis Live” to Australia. “You see tears, you see laughter, you see dancing. You see how captive they are, listening to his every word. It’s truly a journey.”

Priscilla, who serves as executive producer of “Elvis: Live,” says the concert is an offshoot of two albums, both of which feature his original songs (not just his vocals, she stresses, but the entire song) with orchestral accompaniment from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra — 2015’s “If I Can Dream” and 2016’s “The Wonder of You.” The result is a hybrid Elvis would have loved, she believes.

priscilla-presley-reflects-on-elvis-and-apos;-legacy-before-bringing-his-music-to-baltimore photo 1 Chris Kaltenbach

When The King made his last visit to Baltimore 40 years ago, no one knew he would be dead less than three months later. But many suspected that something was wrong.

The Elvis Presley who took to the stage at the Civic Center (now Royal Farms Arena) on May 29, 1977, was not the Elvis most of his...

When The King made his last visit to Baltimore 40 years ago, no one knew he would be dead less than three months later. But many suspected that something was wrong.

The Elvis Presley who took to the stage at the Civic Center (now Royal Farms Arena) on May 29, 1977, was not the Elvis most of his...

(Chris Kaltenbach)

“That was something he always wanted to do,” she says. “He always wanted a bigger sound, a fuller sound.”

The performances, she says, are from different periods, dating as far back as his 1968 TV special (often referred to as his “comeback special”). It also includes songs from his his 1973 “Aloha From Hawaii” satellite TV broadcast, as well as songs recorded during his numerous Las Vegas appearances. There will also be some home movies, which Priscilla will introduce in a pre-filmed segment. (She will not actually be in Baltimore.)

“Elvis: Live,” Priscilla stresses, is not meant to replicate an Elvis show; the program eschews “See See Rider,” for instance, the song that opened most of his later concerts, including a show in Baltimore on May 29, 1977, less than three months before his death on Aug. 16.

“We’re not trying to duplicate what he did, we’re trying to not have it be the same shows,” she says. “because it’s new. … We chose the songs that really were his favorites.”

And yet, she acknowledges, the thrill of seeing Elvis, of experiencing the man as he would have appeared before audiences in the last decade of his life, are key to “Elvis: Live.” Yes, the songs retain their power, and watching him remains a thrill.

“Of course he was gorgeous, he was beautiful to look at,” says Priscilla, who married Elvis in 1967 at age 21, following a seven-year courtship; they divorced in 1973, five years after the birth of Elvis’ only child, Lisa Marie. “But he brought so much on stage. I do believe he was so authentic, and people felt that.”

To help drive that point home, Priscilla saw to it that a healthy portion of onstage banter was included in “Elvis: Live,” the better for modern audiences — including many people not yet born when Elvis died — to feel a personal connection.

priscilla-presley-reflects-on-elvis-and-apos;-legacy-before-bringing-his-music-to-baltimore photo 2 CAPTION

Walt Disney Co. is ending its film distribution agreement with Netflix for new film releases, in one of the boldest moves a traditional studio has taken against the leading digital platform. (Aug. 9, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

Walt Disney Co. is ending its film distribution agreement with Netflix for new film releases, in one of the boldest moves a traditional studio has taken against the leading digital platform. (Aug. 9, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

priscilla-presley-reflects-on-elvis-and-apos;-legacy-before-bringing-his-music-to-baltimore photo 3 CAPTION

Each hour-long episode will feature one in-depth interview with a guest. (Aug. 8, 2017)

Each hour-long episode will feature one in-depth interview with a guest. (Aug. 8, 2017)

“You get to see Elvis at play, you get to see the rapport he has with his band and with his audience,” she says. “You don’t just see the music side of Elvis or the artist side of Elvis, you see him as a person and how he was. I think that’s what’s so endearing.”

Yet Priscilla admits that she remains floored by Elvis’ continuing popularity. And she’s determined to keep his sprit alive.

“He never thought that he would still pull a crowd at age 40,” she says of Elvis, who was 42 when he died. “I think he would be absolutely shocked by how he still draws an audience, and that he is remembered.

“We’re trying to keep, really, the DNA of Elvis Presley, the culture of who he was, “ Priscilla says. “I think by maintaining that, he can go on and on and on.”

If you go

“Elvis: Live in Concert” is set for 8 tonight at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets are $55-$121. modell-lyric.com.

ckaltenbach@baltsun.com

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