Friday, July 29, 2011

"The right to work is traded in for the right to refuse admission."

The Song: "Clubland," Elvis Costello & the Attractions. Words & music by Elvis Costello. Track 1 of Trust, 1981.
When/how acquired: Purchased cassette, c. 1984
Listen/watch here.

"Clubland" was the first song Elvis Costello and his band played off the Spectacular Spinning Songbook last night, and felt even more pointed in today's world than it did 30 years ago.

The show was fantastic, and Costello himself is uncanny. I don't see well in dim light, but on stage he looked ageless, just like the skinny kid he was 30 years ago. More than that, he looked like he was having a great time. We should all be so lucky; the man will be 57 next month, and he seems to be doing exactly what he wants to do.

Elvis Costello's gotten more posts in this year's blog than any other artist, and what I love about him is how wide his vision is. When he was burning out on New Wave in the early 1980s, he peeled off and made a country album. Later, he made an album with Burt Bacharach (Painted from Memory) that is still one of my favorites. After Katrina, he made The River in Reverse with New Orleans R&B legend Allan Toussaint.

Last night's set included covers of the Rolling Stones ("Out of Time"), Prince ("Purple Rain"), Johnny Cash ("Cry, Cry, Cry"), Jesse Winchester ("Payday"), Chuck Berry/Elvis Presley ("Promised Land"), and a version of "Tracks of My Tears" that segued from "Alison" and made me realize those are basically two versions of the same song. Elvis Costello understands his place on a river of music, and rides the river where it takes him. I admire that.

I said I'd talk about books this week and haven't really, but last night's show reminded me of one of my favorite reads of this year so far, which I don't think I've mentioned yet: NASHVILLE CHROME by Rick Bass. It's a novel based on the real-life story of The Browns, a brother-and-sister trio (Maxine, Bonnie and Jim Ed) who were early members of the Grand Old Opry, and toured with Elvis Presley. NASHVILLE CHROME is one of the best portrayals I've ever read of music as a job, and that tension between the longing for stardom and the need to make a living.

By the time my friend Richard and I got out of the State Theatre last night, the Spinning Songbook was already dismantled, and the stage was a jumble of boxes and cables and dollies. It's only glamorous from the outside, but on a good night it must be magic for the musicians as well as for the audience. Why else would they do it?

No comments: