Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustang Daily, April 14, 2010
Elvis Costello plays at Cal Poly
Elvis Costello commanded the stage Monday night, playing songs spanning his entire career as well as covers of some of the first rock 'n' roll artists for his nearly sold-out audience at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC).
The sound was nearly deafening, the crowd was moving excitedly, singing and laughing at jokes, and this was just in the lobby while people were waiting for the show to begin. Men and women converged to talk about the rock legend that many have listened to for more than three decades.
People lined up to get their drinks, many of whom were not getting carded, showing that rock 'n' roll does not have an age cap. Chuck Barber, a San Luis Obispo resident said he's seen Costello 10 or 11 times.
"He was kind of a jerk when he was younger. But you know what,? We all were. I was just out of high school when I started listening to his music and you know what? I was kind of an asshole back then too. I'm 53 this year and part of the reason people my age love him so much is we've grown up with him, we've matured with him and his music," Barber said.
The crowd was mostly between the ages of 30 and 50, one of the box office attendees said. Some of the crowd made it a family event. Allison Agrusa, a 22-year-old woman from Grover Beach, Calif, went with her dad.
"I love Elvis, I grew up listening to him because of my dad," Agrusa said. "It's great he came to (San Luis Obispo)."
As the lights dimmed in the lobby, the crowd finished drinks and filed into the 1,289-seat auditorium. At 8:15 Costello walked across the stage to the first standing ovation of the night in a three-piece suit his signature glasses and a cowboy hat. He bent over, picked up one of the six guitars he had onstage and began to play "Blue Chair" off of his 1986 release, Blood and Chocolate.
As he began the intro for "Blue Chair" an audience member yelled. "Looking good Elvis."
The dimly lit PAC cheered as Costello finished the first verse of the first song. As soon as he started the second verse, the crowd went silent. All that could he heard was Costello's guitar and the lyrics ringing clearly throughout the entire room.
After the second song, Costello addressed the crowd for the first time of the evening.
"This song is about a man that tried to rid the world of alcohol," he said, pausing. "By drinking," he finished.
This interaction between Costello and the crowd continued throughout the night. Later, right before his Billboard Top 40 hit "Every Day I Write the Book" off of his 1983 release Punch the Clock, Costello spoke about how he felt about the song.
"Here's a song I really used t' hate," he said. "But then my friend told me how to sing it properly and now I really like it."
For "Every Day I Write the Book" Costello belted the song's high notes, singing some of the loudest vocals of the entire night. He changed the song's intensity and color constantly, just as the stage's backdrop color was changing throughout the night, almost as if to match the feel of the song. Costello even provided his own backup singing for the song, moving his mouth back and forth near the microphone creating an echo.
Near the middle of his set, Costello unplugged his guitar and sat down at the edge of the stage to play. During the song Costello's hands touched every inch of the guitars neck, holding chords almost as high up as where he was strumming.
For one audience member, a highlight of the show was Costello's use of effects to help showcase his playing ability. Harriet Kaplan, a 48-year-old resident of Los Angeles said his guitar playing and singing really stood out for her. She has seen Costello play three times before Monday's show but had never seen him play acoustically.
"I felt he didn't do everything right and by the hook. It was more improvisational to me. He used some different effects to (add) tones, texture and color to the music," Kaplan said. "His voice was strong and passionate.
Another highlight for fans was when he introduced his special guest to the crowd, sat down in one of the two chairs on stage and gestured to himself. The crowd laughed at his antics once again and Costello broke into another song.
As soon as Costello broke into "Alison" off his first album, My Aim is True, which VH1 named the 80th greatest album of all time, the crowd erupted once again in applause. He finished the song backing away from the microphone to sing to the audience without amplification once again. Costello took a slight bow and walked off the stage to his second standing ovation of the night.
As Costello came hack onstage after his final song, he blew a kiss to the audience, spread open his arms accepting the audience's applause and exited the stage. The concert was over, but a couple remained standing right in front of the stage. Ed and Grace Kaplan drove from Orinda, Calif. to see him play. They said they would only do this sort of thing for Costello.
"We've seen him somewhere between 15 and 20 times," Grace Kaplan said. "He just keeps getting better every time."
Grace Kaplan said she liked the cover songs Costello sang even more than the originals. Costello's someone who really cares about where his music comes from and what his music influences as well, she said. She even compared Costello to the Beatles.
"Each Beatles song is unique but instantly you recognize it's them: she said. "The only other person I can think of that is like that is Elvis."
Ed Kaplan, said he is different from other rock bands that have been playing for years like Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. He said that while Costello is putting on a show for people, he makes his connection to every audience special and different.
"There's no bullshit moments with Elvis like when Mick Jagger took off his shirt and danced around. Elvis doesn't try to act like he's a kid still, it's authentic," Ed said. "It just seems like he loves what he's doing and that's such a pleasure to watch."
Mustang Daily, April 14, 2010