elvis has left the building

Elvis Costello @ The Lincoln Center Festival

I attended two out of the three nights; three seemed excessive, given the different formats of the shows: night one, EC songs with the Metropole Orkest from the Netherlands; night two, with the Imposters (a standard rock show), and night three, the North American premiere of Il Sogno, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream he wrote for an Italian ballet company.


Okay, really, it sounded like a fabulous idea when I bought the tickets.

Truth be told, I would have bought tickets for all three nights had I not been about to enter a transitory phase in my life; I was moving back to NYC and was only arriving about a week before the shows, sans job. But truth also be told, the motivating factor was that buying a ticket to more than one performance entitled me to buy them before they went on sale to the general public.

There. I said it.

Night two with the Imposters, from a 7th row orchestra seat. It ended up being an up-and-down kind of evening, in terms of the audience’s position; we stood for the rowdy numbers and sat down for the quiet ones. But that was also a fair assessment of the performance, in my humble opinion. I generally feel like an average Costello performance is equal to any other artist’s above-average evening, but I just don’t feel like I could give Elvis a solid A for the evening. The setlist was a little too jerky, and the energy coming from the stage was likewise. I realize that the venue is not a rock venue and the audience felt a little different than it usually would, but Elvis is usually good at transcending all of that. I chalk it up to over-work preparing for the non-rock evenings.

The new songs – featured from the upcoming album to be released on (of all places) Lost Highway – were fantastic; deep, dark, vivid, evocative. “Needle Time,” my favorite, is an epic on the scale of “I Want You”. I was sad he omitted the usual transition/audience singalong into “You Really Got A Hold On Me” during “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” – give Elvis a venue acoustically sound enough and he usually takes full advantage of it. Coming out for the second encore solo, ukelele in hand, for a rich, lovely, performance of “The Scarlet Tide” was nothing short of brilliant, and he should have left it there – the third encore seemed standard and somewhat uninspiring (which the previous encore was anything but).

Saturday night at Avery Fisher Hall, and Il Sogno. I have no classical music background on which to evaluate this, at all; reviews from those who do are far more thoughtful and insightful than anything I could attempt to construct. I can honestly say that it was beautiful, and grand, and in some ways astonishing to view the accomplishment in perspective of the rest of Elvis’ career through the years.

Added to the programme about six weeks ago was a short (well, 11-song) set of EC material performed with about half of the Brooklyn Philharmonic (who, of course, performed Il Sogno) as well as Steve Nieve and a bass player whose name escapes me now. “All This Useless Beauty” and “Almost Blue” were favorites, and finally, at the end, Elvis steps away from the mic for an acapella, brilliantly soulful performance of “Couldn’t Call It Unexpected”. (This was slightly marred by the gentleman next to me who took Elvis’ urging to the crowd to sing along ‘if you recognize a tune’ [referring quite clearly to the refrain at the end of the song] as an invitation to bellow the song along with Elvis; I’m not sure whether it was the silence of the rest of the crowd or his girlfriend’s elbow that halted his performance a few lines in, but am deeply grateful whatever the cause, because it was otherwise a heart-stopping, joyful moment, and a fitting close to Elvis’ debut at Lincoln Center.