Elvis Presley is perhaps the most iconic rockstar of all time and, on June 26th, 1977, he would step onto the stage for the final time as he appeared in front of 18,000 fans at Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena.
Presley would tragically die just over six weeks on from his final concert and the year leading up to be the Market Square Arena show were traumatic, to say the least, The King, battling personal issues, would end up allowing said problems to bleed their way into his live performances.
Elvis had split up from Linda Thompson the previous August and immediately moved on to Ginger Alden, who he proposed to marry to just two months after meeting her. Journalist Tony Scherman accounted that by early 1977 Elvis was now “a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self. Hugely overweight, his mind dulled by the pharmacopoeia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts.”
Scherman recounted watching one of his final concerts in Alexandria, Louisiana, where he was on stage for less than an hour and “was impossible to understand”.
The constant media attention surrounding his weight and the questions about the personal demons he was evidently fighting were not of any help to Elvis and, as his life began to spiral, his situation was worsened when just over a fortnight before his untimely death three of his former bodyguards teamed up to write the book Elvis: What Happened? in a bid to detail his drug misuse.
Elvis managed to put his problems aside for his final ever performance and bowed out in euphoric fashion. Although in true rockstar fashion, he didn’t arrive on stage until 10pm even though his stage time was an hour-and-a-half before with warm-up acts of brass bands, soul singers, and a comedian filled time before the King’s took to his throne.
His set lasted for around 80 minutes, it saw Elvis fly through classics such as ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Hound Dog’ as well as a poignant cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water’ before closing the concert in beautiful fashion with ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’. He reportedly told the audience: “We’ll meet you again, God bless, adios” as he left the stage.
Market Square Arena would later be demolished in 2001 and is now a parking lot but there is a memorial for the arena which commemorates its cultural history for being the venue in which that would host Elvis Presley’s last ever concert.
Following his death, President Jimmy Carter shared this moving statement which perfectly encapsulates what The King managed to do in his groundbreaking career: “His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humour of his country.”
Watch this poignant footage from the last time that The King ever took to the stage, below.