Saturday, August 29, 2009
Elvis Costello - "My Aim Is True" - 1977. It was the beginning of the new wave era, which was a softer branch of punk. Not today's pop/punk, but real punk. Punk like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols.
Back then his act was a bit angry, a bit Buddy Holly, and a bit mysterious but over the years, he's mellowed and almost, debonair. His stage character is a little less enraged as he's branched out to become a connoisseur of music appreciation. While I have not followed Elvis since the early 80's, I have known him to dabble in country, big band swing, jazz and indie rock. He's played with Burt Bacharach and Alison Krause.
Friday night, Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes played Massey Hall in Toronto - the same venue where I, as a 20-year old, watched him play "Alison" and "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes."
This show was without a fancy set, no video, no pyro. Just solid craftsmanship.
Elvis walked out at 8pm - no opening act. In the middle of the stage waited their instruments - a fiddle, an accordion, a mandolin, a flute, a couple guitars, double bass - no drums. It was all about the music, played by masterful musicians who backed-up Elvis, yet still let him have the spotlight.
So the set opened with "My Resistance Is Low" made famous in 1948 in a film by Jane Russell followed by a similar sounding but new Elvis song "My All Time Doll". The old hits "Blame It On Cain" and "Red Shoes" were re-vented by the impeccably tight 6-piece Sugarcanes that left me with the feeling that this was a band of polished musicians.
Always one to know the set list before going to a show, I was not expecting to hear "Happy", written by the Rolling Stones. And I was half-hoping that Elton John would appear during an encore, since Elvis and Elton are close friends, and Elton spends a lot of time in Toronto with his partner David Furnish. But that didn't happen.
In the encore, Elvis gave me what I wanted - "Alison" - but it was the new track -"Sulphur To Sugarcane" - that I'll remember most.
Elvis is 55. He's musically inventive. He knows a lot more than a 4/4 new wave beat. And that inspires me.