Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Elvis in a Fine Fedora with the Angels

My ticket

Yes, I was there. Summer Tuesday night after a picnic of Kobe Grill crunchy rolls and a flagon of red wine, settled down in the "A" section. Didn't even need the big screens to see Lucinda Williams in her jacket (on the back, a skull with a rose in its teeth -- what's the allusion?) amble out with her three-man band to sing a nine-song warm-up set including "Well Well Well," the "Happy Woman Blues" (I suppose she is happy but it isn't her stock in trade...she's lushly lugubrious, really) and the wonderful ballad "Jackson," on which Jim Lauderdale of the Sugar Cubes came out and beautifully harmonized. She ended with the pounding and angry "Joy," when lead guitar Chet Lyster finally seemed to find his groove.

Then The Man, welcomed giddily by this exuberant L.A. crowd. He's thickened and put on weight since his spiky, pigeon-toed punkster days, and in his fine fedora he looked like an old rabbi, or later, we thought, when the fedora came off, an sturdy Italian fishmonger. He's neither, of course, born Declan McManus, and now in his 50s, enjoying many a comeback, Elvis Costello seemed especially happy to be among the Angelenos. (Getting ahead of my account, when he came out for an encore he ended up staying for six songs -- as the LA Times reviewer put it, he "seemed outright reluctant to put a halt to the fun."

Despite our excellent seats, we had a different feeling about this evening in the Greek than our earlier rousing and folksy night with Lyle Lovett -- when we were in the middle-B section. We thought the mix on many of the songs wasn't right, making it infuriatingly difficult to savor both Williams' and Costello's lyrics, and on one song half the Sugar Cubes started in one key and half another -- it took about two minutes to coordinate this embarrassment -- a weirdness the rapturous LA Times reviewer failed to mention. Also, we sensed that the "A Section" patrons were trying harder to be cool than the middle-class proles in B who had just a bit too much to drink, maybe, and noisily loved their Lyle. The Elvis folks were tres urbane and seemed hellbent on hanging out with their peeps. Lots of sidling eyes, it seemed to us, checking out who else was there. It's hard to resist: I'm a nobody Flintoid but I did wonder if that guy three rows up could really have been Scorsese (Hey, you never know) and if that other guy just behind us is a character actor on Law and Order.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves, and when Elvis Costello launched into "Red Shoes" it felt like the stars and moon and planets were all aligned, happy and vibrating with the spirit of long-enduring soulfulness.

P.S. I forgot to mention that Costello's band included NO DRUMS, but did include a dobro and an accordion. That was one rockin' accordion player.

No comments: