Wednesday, March 03, 2004

who put these fingerprints on my imagination?

elvis costello played at royce hall tonight, accompanied only by pianist steve nieve. the inimitable. so it was largely acoustic and fairly ballady, but he also did some uptempo tunes, like "pump it up" and "peace, love & understanding." he started out as political elvis, with "45" and "green shirt" having a bite to them, and i remembered how last year at royce he came out and did mose allison's "everybody's crying mercy." (which set off a whole thing, later on.) then slid into brokenhearted elvis, a la the new album, "north," which ... eh. not my favorite elvis album ever.

and he was rock elvis, country elvis, jazzy elvis, crooner elvis. guitar-playing elvis. backing-off-the-mike elvis. there were so many moments when i just felt so ... comforted by his presence. him standing up there in his dark jacket and shirt, bright blue tie, black jeans, sideburns, blocky glasses -- so in control of his instrument, seemingly relaxed and having fun, even. he was definitely effusive. it's so weird, even though it's been going on for a while, to see him encourage audiences to sing along. and being all chatty, and all. i just felt like, i love to hear him sing. it is as simple as that.

and so at one point he was crooning something particularly emotional, and ending the tune. and just as he ended it, like maybe two steps before, some cretin in the right balcony screamed "'radio radio'!" as everyone in the room was thinking the same thing i was thinking -- "sigh, i love to hear elvis sing" -- the whole damn place jumped, startled from reverie. it was so jarring, and crass. i muttered "asshole" under my breath. elvis looked up there and said, "i had to come all the way to los angeles to find an asshole like you." and the whole place cheered. he was clearly pissed but his words were measured: "you know where the exit is." then elvis led the crowd in chanting for "radio radio." it definitely broke the tension, but maybe went on too long: evidence of how much the interruption irritated him? i dunno, but i heard that the person did get thrown out.

he followed all that with "god's comic," with an extended jokey monologue in the middle ... rambling from his satiric view of heaven to time spent in a hotel in tampa, fl, when vp dick cheney was there, through WMDs, the CMAs, and going to the oscars with t-bone burnett. and i think more shtick on "radio radio." god's comic, indeed.

the set lasted about 55 minutes, and then they played another hour's worth of encores. which proved frankly tedious by the end, despite the generosity of it and the sense that elvis was enjoying himself. certainly the audience did. still, it was kinda like, enough already. i probably would have felt less impatient with it if it had been the rock-er elvis, and that's just personal preference. it was still good. (to quote 00soul, "he is a talented little fucker.") the show had so many high points and resonant asides, including what he said before the song from "cold mountain." something about "if we're gonna use phrases like 'god bless america' or 'god save the queen' then maybe sometimes we'll have to forgive those who trespass against us..." hmmm. that's close to it. anyway, forgiveness has come up once or twice lately. although i would have to ponder what he meant exactly. perhaps there are many meanings. anyway, he played the song on ... ukulele? it sounded better than on the oscars, where it was sleep-inducing.

he jokingly dissed hobbits at one point ("fuckin' hobbits!"), and so, how ironic that he then proceeded through a show with more endings than the return of the king.

funnily enough, he DID play "radio radio," near the end, and it was actually pretty fierce. it's a good song to play right now, what with clear channel, the fcc, et al. that whole thing is like a fucking witch hunt. (for more see doc40.) so, he was also relevant elvis. it wasn't quite as graceful as the mose allison tune from last year, but it reflected a similar anger transformed into energy. he used to have a reputation as an angry young man, and i think he is still angry. it just comes out differently now.

so the short version is: thank god -- or the higher power(s) of your choice, or not -- for elvis. he gives me strength, contributes beauty to the world, and fights the power with his words and music. and reverb.

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