Barrie Examiner, April 20, 2012

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What's so funny about understanding this Elvis?


Bob Bruton

I don't know about your musical heroes, but mine are getting a little long in the tooth. This dawned on me, once again, when I ventured to Casino Rama Thursday night to see Elvis Costello.

It seemed like just yesterday (actually it was 1978) when a friend insisted I listen to the new Elvis (Presley having died the year before). Living in Hamilton, he'd recorded a concert off the radio from Toronto's El Mocambo nightclub.

Costello, backed by his crack band the Attractions, roared through a set of blistering rock 'n' roll — although at the time it was called 'new wave'. This distinguished it from 'punk rock' and other music struggling to wash away the stench of 1970s disco.

Anyway, I found Costello's music tremendously exciting — clearly the next generation of a guitar-bass-drums-keyboard sound driving urgent vocals by a singer with something to say in a pop song, for a change.

I saw him live in London, Ont., in late 1978. There were approximately five-second breaks between each song and in less than an hour he'd played everything he had. It was a great show.

Spring forward to June of 1994 at Kingswood Music Theatre, when Costello and the Attractions played a marathon set to an outdoor audience, stopped only by the 11 p.m. curfew. He had many songs by then, so he could play longer, and it was another great show.

Costello has had an interesting career, also dabbling in country music, classical, jazz and mixing styles to match his musical moods. He even had a TV show, Spectacle, where he interviewed and played with musicians he loved and respected.

Anybody who really likes music has their heroes, and usually this happens when you're in your teens or early 20s — when everything sounds fresh and new.

This is before you discover that nearly every heavy metal band has borrowed its best riffs from Led Zeppelin, that even the best harmony singing pales next to Lennon and McCartney and that there will be no new Dylan. Or, at least that's the way I see it.

Today's generation of music fans probably has other ideas (why does a Barrie pharmacy have a life-sized cutout of teen idol Justin Bieber and why won't someone take it away? Far, far away.).

It probably doesn't help, of course, that almost none of my music heroes have taken Neil Young's advice (if not his actions) and burnt out before they faded away.

They just keep returning for more comeback tours, TV shows, etc. They just can't get enough of the spotlight, I guess. That or music is all they can do.

How many times has The Who done their last show, only to reunite later?

Would someone please tell Bruce Springsteen he's 62 and shouldn't do three-hour concerts anymore.

But that's our problem, you see.

We'd prefer our musical heroes to be as they were when we were 17, a moment frozen in time. That's why we're often disappointed by them 30 years later, because too much time has gone by and they're not that band or singer or guitar player anymore.

Even though we shouldn't be disappointed, because they get older, just like us.

Which is why Costello's show at Rama was so heartening. He played 90 minutes of mostly rock 'n' roll, roaring through a number of his early hits, barely pausing between songs, playing at a blistering pace.

His aim is still true.

Bob Bruton is the Examiner's city hall reporter. His musical heroes haven't faded away, but they've rusted. Except Elvis Costello.

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The Barrie Examiner, April 20, 2012


Bob Bruton reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Thursday, April 19, 2012, Casino Rama, Rama, Ontario, Canada.


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