A friend of mine was looking through my CDs once, and remarked “Dude, do you think you have enough Elvis Costello?” I responded saying “can you think of a BETTER artist to be obsessive about?”
After the rampant musical excess of Summerfest, Milwaukee continues to make the most of the all-too-brief summer weather by making every weekend some sort of excuse for drinking outside. This weekend was Bastille Days, when they shut down several blocks downtown in the shadow of City Hall, and do…French stuff, I guess. It involves drinking and eating and a forty foot replica of the Eiffel Tower built by the engineering school.
And music, of course. Friday evening was a double set by perennial favorite local ska-punks Something To Do, who were soldiering on, down one guitar player due to “honeymoon”. I made a crack that they went through guitar players like Spinal Tap goes through drummers. HAH!
They played a new song about Richard Spencer, that Alt-right Nazi dickweasel who got punched in the melon on TV, which inspired a spirited discussion on when it is appropriate to punch someone on the melon. The Internet quickly determined that punching Nazis is perfectly appropriate.
Anyway, this is their most recent single, “Don’t Take That Shit From Anyone”
So tonight, Elvis Costello (as BBBB calls him, Brother Declan) and the Imposters visited Milwaukee for the umpteenth time in recent years. Seriously, I think we’ve probably seen him 10 or twelve times by now, and he is consistently one of the most rewarding performers, never playing by number or phoning it in. He especially likes our Riverside Theater, as we’ve seen him a couple of times where for the encore, he sings into the hall using no amplification, just his voice and the conducive acoustics.
For this show, he was focusing on Imperial Bedroom, one of his albums that took me a while to warm up to but has over time and evolution become one of my favorites. It has a subtlety and complexity that rewards focus and repeated listens.
For this tour, he brought along a pair of singers, Kitten Koroi and Brianna Lee, who really punched up the vocals of the songs. Especially on the show-closing encore, “Everyday I Write The Book” and when they sang “Alison” with just Elvis on guitar.
They played for an initial set for a bit over an hour, and left, then came back for a batch of slower, more focused songs with limited instrumentation, eventually bringing out the band for full throated closers “Man Out Of Time” and “Pidgin English”.
Did I say “Everyday” was the show closer? Nah, that just set up the band intros, then they barreled full-tilt into “Pump It Up” and then blasted the roof off the joint with “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?”
Damnit, pretty much every time I see him, that is the finale; I KNOW it’s coming, I know every line and every chord of that song, I know Elvis didn’t even write it, even if his is the definitive version, and every goddam time it makes me weep. And in this time, the lyrics seem much less hippy-dippy goofiness, but more prophetic and even more relevant. Maybe one day Elvis will no longer feel the need to sing that song. But for one more time, it brought a ray of hope, a bit of sunshine….
Here’s another version. Apologies for the gratuitous Dave Matthews, and the gratuitous Glenn Frey; perhaps made up for by the Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Vedder, and Mike Mills on the big strong bass.