Elvis hadn't appeared in New York since the 1950s and his legendary TV performances on The Dorsey Brothers 'Stage Show', the 'Steve Allen Show' and the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' Elvis was understandably apprehensive about appearing in New York, a city well known for tough audiences, and the reaction to his earlier appearances in the city probably didn't help. He did not need to worry as the reaction of those present and the press reviews that followed the concerts testify.
Before the first show (Friday 9 June) Elvis held a press conference in The Mercury Ballroom at the New York Hilton. Elvis looked great and charms the press in attendance. Asked about his image as a shy, humble wonderful human being he jokes, "Oh, I don't know what makes them think that…there's this gold belt"
There was one show on the Friday evening, an afternoon and evening show on Saturday 10 June and, added due to ticket demand, a fourth show on the afternoon of Sunday 11 June. Both shows on the Saturday were recorded by RCA and the complete evening performance was released ten days later, to beat the bootleggers, on Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. The afternoon show was later issued on CD as An Afternoon In The Garden. The original album suffered from a muffled sound with the audience to far back in the mix and it certainly didn't sound like there were 20,000 people in the audience!
This new release has been mixed by Michael Brauer who has previously worked with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Coldplay. This new mix, which may not appeal to everyone, is louder and brings the audeince further forward in the mix and the whole effect makes you feel like you are part of the 20,000 enjoying the show. I have mixed feelings as I do like this new mix but will always have a soft spot for the original as this is how I remember it when I first brought the album back in 1972. It is down to personal taste but I will not be getting rid of the earlier releases as I am sure they will still be played.
The 20-minute mini-documentary is very interesting and includes comments from Lenny Kaye, Jerry Schilling, Glen D. Hardin, Joe Guercio, James Burton and George Kalinsky, official photographer at the concerts and whose photographs appear in the packaging.
However, it is the footage from the 10 June afternoon show that is the major selling/talking point of this release. Elvis fan Don Lance attended the show with his girlfriend and he smuggled in an 8mm cine camera and tripod and filmed parts of the show. His friends helped hide what he was doing from the security guards and what he captured, despite the conditions, equipment and age, is amazing. Not only has the footage, which runs to approximately 20-minutes, been cleaned up but they have synced it with the audio and this works very well and on a computer screen or TV the footage is very acceptable and watchable.
He captured some songs complete (That's All Right and Hound Dog) while others are just clips (Polk Salad Annie, Proud Mary, Never Been To Spain, I'll Remember You and a few seconds of the opening of Reconsider Baby). There is also footage taken outside the venue and some of the audience and stage before the show begins. They have chosen to include all the audio from the show and when no footage is available the screen goes black. I found this annoying and would have preferred it if they had included some still images as there are enough in the booklet that could have been used. It would have also been nice to have the songs with footage listed in the main DVD menu then you could pick what you wanted to watch. This is only a minor complaint and in no way spoils the enjoyment of seeing Elvis on top form in 1972.
There is also a Legacy Edition (Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden) of both shows (minus the DVD) which includes the original mixes. This set features the original album cover artwork with a photo taken from the April 1972 tour and which was originally proposed for use on the album Standing Room Only which was dropped in favour of the Madison Square Garden release.
I would recommend both Prince From Another Planet and At Madison Square Garden (Legacy Edition) and they are available to order from the 'Elvis Presley' section at the Johnny Cash Fanzine Store.