Introduced by Matt Pinfield! We (we = mostly 101.9 WRXP contest winners) have gathered at Jim Brady's, an Irish pub near Wall Street: After ordering a pint, you can turn 90 degrees and watch Sportscenter on a projection screen, and turn another 90 degrees and watch Elvis Costello, dapper and charming as ever, strum his acoustic and bellow a few tunes from his new album. "Anything more intimate would require a lapdance," murmurs the guy next to me to his buddy. Let's not give Elvis any ideas.
The album in question is Sacred Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, which, as you may have already surmised, vies to hit the same reverent folk/American lore target Krauss & Plant's Raising Sand did, to spectacular affect. As such, it ain't bad. (Produced by T-Bone Burnett!) "My All Time Doll" is yet another of Elvis' splendid Songs of Obsession: "I thought I was immune," he moans, and then mutters a theatrically pained "Oh yeah" off-mic, perfectly audible to every whooping fan crammed in this tiny bar. Between songs he does some Storytellers-type banter, chatting amicably about P.T. Barnum, and the "extremely ugly" Hans Christian Andersen, and the famous singer the latter was in love with. "He asked her why she couldn't return his love," Elvis informs us. "And this is what she said." And with that, he launched into the sad-sack ballad "She Handed Me a Mirror."
No old stuff, of course (he remade "Complicated Shadows" for the record, so that don't count), and nearly half his time is taken up by an onstage Matt Pinfield interview. (He takes one question from the crowd, which turns out to be "Are there any more outtakes left from My Aim Is True?" which is why you never take questions from the crowd.) But this is tolerable. The highlight of record and show both is "Sulfur to Sugarcane," a fabulously ribald travelogue romp: "The women in Poughkeepsie take their clothes of when they're tipsy," "I gave up married women / Cause i heard it was a sin / Now that I'm back in New York I may take them up again" (more whoops), etc. We wouldn't let just anyone rhyme "Ypsilanti" and "no panties." Can't guarantee if Grammy voters will love it, but he's got the Irish-bar demographic on lock.