There are plenty of Elvis Costello songs that I love. For awhile I followed him, and at one point or other - possibly even at the same time! - I had in my collection everything from My Aim Is True (from 1977), which remains my favourite of his albums, through to 1989's Spike. He's always been prolific, so that means that, in my 20s, I had his first twelve albums, plus the Taking Liberties comp and the Live at the El Mocambo bootleg. But I had to confess to myself by Spike that he had exhausted me; as with Robert Pollard, more recently, committing to Elvis Costello fandom requires sort of signing on to an album a year, minimum, which was just ALWAYS going to be more Elvis Costello than I needed; plus as with Joe Jackson, he hasn't lingered on his early sound, has expanded his explorations in directions that I am sure were interesting and rewarding to him... but which weren't always what I wanted, especially since those were my punk and grunge years that we're talkin' about. I have never lost respect for him, but I have owned none of the 21 albums he's put out since 1991, haven't even heard any of them to completion. I contemplated Hey Clockface*, based on reviews and the recommendations of friends, but I never actually bit (I liked the single but I only listened to it twice and now don't recall the name). At some point I just faced it: If I'm going to spin an Elvis Costello album, it's gonna be My Aim is True, This Year's Model, Imperial Bedroom, or Blood and Chocolate - the four that remain in my collection. Occasionally I pick up King of America at a shop and wonder if I should re-add that, but I haven't yet. ("The Imposter" is so great that I sometimes think of getting Get Happy!!, too, but I'll wait til I see it somewhere for cheap). If I knew for sure that there was an album I was going to connect with to the same extent that I connect with the four unquestionable keepers, I would give it a shot But... but... life is short, and, like - uhh, here he's working with a string quartet... here he's working with Burt Bacharach... I mean, no disrespect, but I don't even own any Carpenters, fer chrissake... "Adult contemporary" is not really a genre I travel in...
However: not only do I love those four albums that I still have (especially "Tokyo Storm Warning" - jeezus, whatta song), I quite respect Elvis Costello's career. He's always made interesting moves, from acting in Alex Cox's Straight to Hell (which I love and have interviewed both Zander Schloss and Alex Cox about) to hosting that TV show (I don't watch TV much but I enjoyed what I saw) to appearing, the only time I saw him perform live, at the Hal Willner Neil Young Tribute, where he blew EVERYONE off the stage (even Lou Reed) by doing what no one had even really ATTEMPTED to do, daring to channel Young's aggro, expressive, passion-driven guitar style. I forget now if he did "Cowgirl in the Sand" or "Down by the River" but whichever tune it was, him going to town on the solos was seriously the high point of the night, made even more delightful by the fact that no one really expected Costello to sound like he was in Crazy Horse. I mean, who'da thunk? (Lou just did a kinda straightforward cover of "Helpless," which was fine, but in no way all that inspired, and certainly no workout for him. I don't even remember who else was on stage that night... I wrote about it here, back in 2010...).
I only crossed paths with Mr. Costello, quite literally, one other time, attending that Nick Cave Q&A concert at the Massey in New West, where he and Ms. Krall were just moving through the audience in their own leisurely way, unmolested by anyone that I could see. Just folks. Everyone around them was going "But, but... that's Elvis Costello and Diana Krall," wondering what to do or say, but they didn't seem to mind or care. I admired the hell out of it. They didn't seem standoffish, they weren't bursting with ego, they weren't doing anything special to telegraph their boundaries; they were just two people out for a show, who simply did not expect to be bothered, and so they weren't (even Nick Cave was surprised when someone pointed out that they were in the audience, when it came up during one of the questions). I can't say why it impressed me so much, but it did. "Damn, I wish he'd play a show here, I'd like to see him at least once," I thought that night. And have thought so several times since, as I sing along to "Beyond Belief" or "Blame It on Cain" or play "Tokyo Storm Warning" on my headphones while walking to the Skytrain.
So: I bought a pre-sale ticket for the upcoming show, and am really excited about it - more than you'd think I might be, given that he is someone I have not bought (or downloaded or streamed or borrowed or otherwise listened to) an album by since 1989. His recent setlists suggest he is playing plenty of songs I know and love, so I'm puttin' $150 into this and have no regrets. Also, I blew my chance to see Nick Lowe - the man who wrote "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" - when he was last in town, was exhausted from a day's work and just gave the tickets away... so that's even cooler, that he's opening. I'm a fan of his, too, and loved Los Straitjackets, who are backing him, when they were in town for Marshall Crenshaw. I gotta get the Walkabout album - "Tokyo Bay" is a terrific song. Lowe and Costello are both men I've wanted to see for a long time, so... this is gonna be great, eh?
I think there are Live Nation pre-sales continuing tomorrow, btw (but I don't know the code; I got the artist pre-sale by signing up to receive newsletters via his website). There were tons of good seats left, though. My friends and I ended up 21 rows from the stage, which cost about $140 odd dollars per ticket, if you factor in the insurance and such. Not bad! (Closer than that got pricy fast, though). I'd rather see Elvis Costello than Bruce Springsteen any day, and $140 is nothing to see a guy I've been listening to and enjoying for forty years (even if "Tokyo Storm Warning" is unlikely to appear...).
Incidentally, I received no money for this ad, just lifted it off Facebook and am posting it here for the hell of it, because what else am I going to illustrate this with? (Has Bev shot him...? Nope!).