101 in 1001 {II}: 008 see elvis costello in concert [completed 06.10.09]

elvis costello and the sugarcanes

my friend douglas's pitchfork review of elvis costello's latest album, secret, profane & sugarcane, had me a bit worried before last night's show: he argues that the sugarcanes, the bluegrass ringers who replace the attractions (elvis's rock band), have a hard time keeping up. though i did long for the occasional keyboard squeal, i found that i liked the net effect of this band: since i hadn't yet heard the new stuff, i appreciated the taste of EC's vocals (and the lyrics, bless that man and his clever, clever lyrics) without a lot of garnish. moreover, the show's rootsy underpinnings led to some really fantastic combinations for older and cover material - i loved his interpretation of "femme fatale,"* which he called "a folk song from these parts," and "blame it on cain" got even cooler with a little dobro and accordion sprinkled over the top. so when it was good, the show was very, very good, and when it was bad - oh, my. i wish i could forget hearing "every day i write the book" (a song that's always been a bit too proud of itself, so whatever) and "(the angels wanna wear my) red shoes" (one of my favorites, alas!); i'm sure it gets tiresome to play album versions of things night after night after night, but i can't forgive him for the drawn-out vocal flourishes he added to those songs. the "book" chorus blossomed like a rotten flower; he sang that thing for ten minutes. but! he spent plenty of time (he played for more than two and a half hours) with other, far finer things. i will forgive almost anything for a fiery "(what's so funny 'bout) peace, love and understanding" or an unadorned "alison," and i got both. hell of a guy, that elvis costello.

*props for covering a velvet underground song from the nico era, too. he could mimic lou reed in his sleep; hearing his take on big, teutonic ladyvocals was much more interesting.

1 comment:

LPC said...

I've seen him twice. Once in the 1980's on a pier in Manhattan. Once in SF in the 90's. I'm very clear. If there is a remote chance of God he is Elvis Costello.