Elvis Costello And Me In 2013
(Travel back with me to a night I wont forget- well I did forget but then remembered…I have been a screaming Costello fan since I was a young teen and I have seen him many, many times- this was one of the best. Not for the venue, not for the set list, but for the sheer comfortable demeanor from the man himself. He can often come across aloof or a bit bitchy- but on this night, nearly 5 years ago, he reminded me what I fell in love with to begin with. A rather awkward man with a quirky voice an sex appeal for miles. Step back to that time I saw that guy and he made my knees weak.-HB)
For a Sunday night sold out show in the artsy town of Northampton there was a mature vibe going down. Funny no one really looked twice at my attempts to hurl Mary Magpie onto Elvis Costello’s bus, as a matter of fact the grey and successful looking crowd were far too reserved to notice much of anything.
The Calvin Theater sits under a shabby marquis and the staff were kind, greasy and bespectacled. as if it were the costume required to work the Costello gig. With fabulous seats I was prepared for just about anything. Seeing Elvis is always a hit or miss. The guy can be magical and he can be just plain awful. I expected the worse a middle aged drunk boisterous crowd and a pissed off Elvis who would hammer 70 minutes and depart.
What I received was exactly the opposite.
The stage barren other than 5 guitars, a keyboard and amps had “On Air” ‘Detour” and “Request” lights that Costello would use with a tap of his foot. Always a huckster Costello must long for carnival days. Tonight he was the On Air personality of his own radio show that ‘could be heard in Alaska’
The first half of his set done to complete silence. His one man show often skewing the songs to such extent that they became unrecognizable until the hook and when the light bulb went of in the crowds head- the cheers were enthusiastic yet not extended. The room was silent, everyone was on board. Opening with “Peace In Our Time” the constant shout out was that ‘tonight is all about Peace’ yet peppered amongst this feel good love in were stories of war and family, death and how his grandmother blamed Al Jolson for ruining his grand dads musical career (apparently he played in a band accompanying silent films)
Elvis is not a showman, he is a performer. He wont entertain you with movement but his stories of his parents and grand parents lent a cozy feel to the intimate venue. For the record the Calvin is a great hall with fabulous acoustics and generous seats with nice site lines. Dont believe the shit reviews its gotten, those people are clueless.
He is looking fantastic having dropped a ton of weight and firmed up as well. Sporting his now signature hat and jeans with jacket he looked as uncool as ever and so ‘any man’ that the power of his voice was amplified. That howl that passion is coming from THAT guy? Tough to believe but that voice is as strong as ever and that guy still has it.
Digging deep in his catalog and on to his Roots collaboration with the interesting ‘Grenade’ there was literally something for everyone. He showed his sense of humor, he did his political jokes, he made you love him.
I debated even seeing this tour. He’s old and haggard, he worked with Mumford and Sons for God’s sake and he isnt Mr Happy Guy. I feared i would lose my starry eyed infatuation and I am here to tell you the stars are just as bright. My first encounter with Costello was August 5, 1983. Now some 30 years later I can honestly say he captivates me just the same.
His guitar work was outstanding from soft acoustic to hard rocking pelvis grind (somewhat unnerving considering I’ve not seen such hip action in a long time- but yeah..woah)I’ll have what he’s having, please.
Proving all you need is a beautiful set of pipes, a well tuned guitar and a catalog of brilliance Elvis hits the road in a lovely bus (equipped with flat screen TV in the rear!) hitting tiny venues full of adoring fans. We are older, we are wiser and we all still got it. Best Birthday gift ever, Thanks Iman!
Set list? Well I have a bit of it- but I got too swept up in the magic of the music to keep a proper list. Two hours and ten minutes of Elvis and a guitar (aside from the two songs on keyboard). His sense of humor absolutely front stage.
So here’s what we got, and I don’t expect every gig to have the same. Green Shirt, New Lace Sleeves, Hi Fidelity, Bullets for The New Born King, Bedlam, You Hung the Moon, Broadside 13, Alison, Man Out of Time, Olivers Army, Shipbuilding (on keyboard!), A Slow Drag With Josephine, Jimmie Standing In The Rain, Any Kings Shilling, Less Than Zero, Tripwire/ Peace , Love and Understanding and a whole lot more.
I died. He’s magical…still