A MAN OUT OF TIME
Elvis Costello is currently on tour with his piano player Steve Nieve. They do this every couple of years, usually to promote one of the less rock oriented albums. I think the first time was for All This Useless Beauty, then Painted from Memory, and now the jazz-tinged ballad-fest North. It's just the two of them and a piano, a couple of guitars, and maybe the odd melodica, playing stripped down versions of songs from across Costello's oeuvre.
Last night they stopped in Portland at the Arlene Schnitzer Auditorium. We had absolutely shitty seats in the cheap balcony, but lucky for us the event was terribly undersold and the balcony beneath us was nearly empty. So all us cheapos migrated down and got a better view of Elvis's rhinestone-covered shoes. (In our original seats, three men in front of us were absolutely freaking out over these shoes, passing the binoculars back and forth and telling each other to check them out, like monkeys transfixed by jewels. When Elvis began "45," one of them exclaimed, "Hey, this is a good song!…Hey, man, this is that song you like!…This is such a good song!" I think he feels the more you say it, the more it's true. I made sure to grab seats at the front of the lower section when we moved, to make sure they did not end up in front of us again.)
The concert kicked off with "Accidents Will Happen." It's a good choice. Its status as an old classic immediately signals that the show could go anywhere in terms of the discography, and the theme of the tune signals there will be no playing it safe. This proved true, as the pair jumped all over the place. North was heavily represented, but we also got "Almost Blue," "Indoor Fireworks," "Pump It Up," and others from the back catalogue. The highlight for me was the final three songs of the main set--"Man Out of Time," "Shipbuilding," and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?"
The show itself was nearly 2 1/2 hours with three lengthy encores. He did a couple of covers, working "Suspicious Minds" into "Alison," a powerful "You’ll Never Walk Alone," and a smooth "Dark End of the Street." He led the third encore with a great new song, and also treated us to a solo rendition of "Scarlet Tide," his song from Cold Mountain, on ukulele.
I’ve seen Elvis several times, and he is generally more talkative then he was last night. When he did banter between songs, it was incredibly funny, including his declaration of "Fuck Hobbits!" as an intro to "Scarlet Tide" (the song lost the Oscar to the horrible Lord of the Rings: Return of the Boring theme). His comedic commentary reached an all-time high, though, in his monologue in the middle of "God's Comic," touching on the nature of divinity, Mel Gibson, Bush and Cheney, same-sex marriage, and Japanese TV. He noted that Bush's cronies wanted to ban teaching evolution, while positing that Bush secretly looks in the mirror at night and thinks, "What a waste of a good ape." Slowburn of the Night Award went to his joke about the presenter of the above-referenced Japanese TV show telling him that he had learned to speak English from the Beatles's music, to which Elvis quipped, “Too bad the song he chose was 'Michelle.'" The laughter started late and slow, as it sank in…(and if you’re not laughing, think about it a bit more).
All in all, money well-spent. A long show with no opening act (what a treat!), better seats than we paid for, and on my walk home, I noticed the Blockbuster by my house that is closing down reduced everything to 50% off, so I got Together for $7.50. It’s not Chen Kaige’s best, but it takes the sting out of a certain online retailer not only sending me the film three months late, but doing so because they got it mixed up with another DVD of the same name, despite my e-mailing them in November when they changed the ship date to inform them they were confused. Their phone rep basically said my best bet was to return it because from what she could tell the people responsible for actually sending the disc were too dumb to ever send me the right one.
Oops…lost the plot at the end there. Oh, well...Donnie Darko never had one, and people still like that, so I'm sure I'm okay. (No, he didn't! He couldn't have bashed Donnie Dorko. Yup, here comes the hate mail...heh-heh-heh.)
Current Soundtrack: Sugababes, Three