Everyone had something to say except Elvis Costello. His Monday night performance at Wolf Trap was, to say the least, understated.
Four songs in, the tyke in the row behind me announced, "I'm ready to go to sleep, daddy!"
"Shhh!" the bootlegger with a tape recorder at my side continually spat. (At me.)
Costello performed an eclectic sampler of singles from 1977 to the present, including crowd favorites "Pump It Up," "Shipbuilding" and "Watching the Detectives." But I and many others left unsatisfied.
Costello has one of the most enduring legacies and diverse repertoires in the industry, and yet he did not once address the audience and rarely moved from his hunched stance at the microphone. His is among the most lucid voices ever recorded, but his enunciation and register were both unjustifiably wanting.
He sang, "I Wanna Be Loved," someone shouted, "We love you!" and he didn't even flinch. If I wanted a redundant, plastic performance, I'd play vinyl.
There was one real performer that night, at least, in the form of the Black Crowes' lead singer Chris Robinson, who is stealing a few of the shows on Costello's nationwide summer tour. His opening performance was upbeat and soulful, he responded to the crowd, and he showcased his talent brilliantly.
I got to meet Robinson, and he is exceptionally gracious and charming. Worth noting? Yes. He stole the show before the audience even knew it, and it was inevitable that we would be left wanting more from the headliner.
Then came Elvis — and ambivalence.
I came in thinking all his songs sounded like something others — from the Clash to Roy Orbison — had already done better.
But he has collaborated on duets with everyone in the music industry, he has been around for 25 years, and he did almost sell out the venue.
Maybe I just don't get it.