Saturday, April 24, 2010

Elvis at The National

"If I'd known you'd be so enthusiastic, I'd have started earlier," joked Elvis Costello returning for the first of two encores.

If he'd realized how psyched this crowd of mostly middle-aged fans was, he would have had to start around 4:00 this afternoon and that seems a bit unlikely to have happened, wouldn't you say?

From the second the straw-hatted Elvis took the stage, the audience was in his thrall.

With the Sugarcanes behind him, we were treated to a peerless group of musicians including the incomparable Jerry Douglas on dobro (and mandolin) and Jim Lauderdale on guitar.

Adding to those magnificent music makers were violin, mandolin, upright bass and accordion.

I was lucky enough to happen on a couple of National regulars, the kind of people who see shows weekly and while we don't attend the same shows for the most part(although we have three upcoming shows in common), I can always enjoy talking to other live music lovers.

We became fast friends, holding each other's places in front of the sound booth during bar runs and bathroom breaks.

Not surprisingly, Costello's between-song banter was witty and smart. Introducing a song, he said, "For all you out there who think you can rid the world of alcohol by drinking it," and a general chuckle arose from the crowd.

When he finally had his electric guitar brought out, he cautioned the audience not to get too excited because, "it only has four strings."

Costello told the audience that he was raised "across the river from Richmond" and that his father had told him that "someday his name would be up in Richmond , VA."

This show had happened not a moment too soon for this crowd; I heard more than one person say that it was their first trip to the National.

Not to judge, but that's pathetic, people. How long has this venue been open now?

I never expected to hear Costello's unique voice live so I would have been happy with whatever he chose to sing.

I have to admit that I would have been thrilled beyond words to have heard anything from his collaborative CD with Burt Bacharach, but that would have been tough to pull off without an orchestra.

Of course, with a catalog the size of Costello's, composing a set list had to have been a challenge.

Several female George Jones fans near me about lost it when he launched into, "A good year for the roses;" apparently they were more familiar with Jones' cover of the song than Costello's.

 To tease us, he saved his most well-known material for the two encores, including a slow-tempo version of "Every Day I Write the Book."

No surprise, the biggest crowd reaction came with "Allison," which became a sing-along and segued into the other Elvis' "Suspicious Minds;" the fans went absolutely crazy.

The closing song was "(What's so funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?"

For an audience which mostly drew from the '70s, there could not have been a better way to end the show.

No doubt they were also happy with its respectable ending time: 10:30 on a Saturday night.

New wave has mellowed into middle age but when the performance is as outstanding as this one was, it's easy to forgive such un-rock and roll behavior.

We are, after all, talking about Elvis Costello.

No telling, maybe he had better things to do in Richmond, VA after finally getting his name up in lights.

This fan would have happily made a few enthusiastic suggestions.


  1. Do you have a trust fund? How do you afford all this high living?

  2. HA! Hardly. No, I work and budget just like everyone else, although everyone has their priorities about how to spend, don't they?

    Do you pay for cell phone service? Cable? A car payment? A mortgage and property taxes? Do you buy new clothes or furniture? Go shopping at the mall or online? Not one of those things is in my budget. By choice.

    I also wouldn't call my life "high living," either. My grocery bill is minimal because I usually have dinner out and I keep it basic for the other meals at home (I also cook and make batch meals and freeze them). Many of the activities I go to are no cost (Listening Room, Live at Ipanema, shows at Balliceaux, Project Resolution, weekly music movies at Strange Matter, Silent Music Revival, book and poetry readings, Cap Ale House's movie series, art shows and openings and the list continues).

    Many are low cost (Gallery 5 music shows, walking tours, screenings at the Byrd, Camel shows, VMFA lectures and Poetic Principles), meaning rarely more than $5.

    I am a die hard live music fan so I will always try to afford a ticket for a band I really want to see. Elvis Costello was by far the most expensive ticket I've bought in years at $38.50, but who knows if I'll get another chance to hear a legend? Thursday's show by The National, for instance, was $20 and I think most people can afford $20 if they choose to.

    And when I eat out, I eat off of the appetizer and salad side of the menu, both for financial and health reasons. Generally I only order an entree when forced to (like at a wine dinner) which is a far more economical way to enjoy restaurant dining. And as I mention in my posts, when I want to drink I try to hit restaurants on their half price wine nights; anyone can afford a $4 glass of wine, if they want to.

    I think when you said "high living" what you should have said was "happy living." I might make different choices than the mainstream, but I only do what I can afford and truly enjoy. Surely you're not finding fault with that?

  3. damn girl, you shouldn't even of bothered answering that bastard!! he sounds like he's green with envy so he's probably miserable in his own life. people like that deserve to lay in the beds they made and quit hassling folks who are enjoying their lives.

  4. Hey Anon, thanks for having my back!
    (Do I know you?)

  5. Great blog entry. I'd really love to see EC with the Sugarcanes. Or The Imposters. Or solo with a guitar. COME TO BUENOS AIRES, ELVIS.

  6. Yea, that person is just jealous and should really get a life(like you have)! haha! But it was an amazing show and I enjoyed reading your article! Thanks!

  7. Good Year for the Roses was written by Jerry Chesnut

  8. Funky: Hope you get your wish!

    Anonymous #1: Thanks for the support. I agree that the show was just amazing and I'm pleased that you enjoyed my post about it. Keep reading!

    Anonymous #2: I (heart) music geeks.