Vue Weekly, February 4, 2010

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Elvis Costello: Nothing funny here

Mike Angus

Aside from supporting the Fort Edmonton Foundation, here are five reasons to attend Elvis Costello in concert at the Winspear Centre:

1. Not only is he timeless, enduring and relevant, Costello is the original rock 'n' roll rebel. He changed his name to Elvis, and don't mistake those iconic frames for a wholesome Buddy Holly image; over his 40-year career Costello has compiled the most literate, seething and heart-broken catalogue out of any of his contemporaries. He's also been banned from Saturday Night Live (only to be awarded his own talk show), accused of drunken, racist tirades (for which he was later forgiven) and is on his third marriage. If you're looking for the real deal, there are few artists around who can touch him.

2. The legend is surely embellished, but it's a damn fine tale: Costello was 23 years old when he started busking outside a Columbia Records executives' meeting in London and refused to leave until he was signed to a record deal. He was arrested for obstruction, and signed to Columbia upon his release. Aspiring singer-songwriters, take note: get serious or go home. The gauntlet's been thrown down.

3. Now in its second season, Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... is a music talk show hosted by the man himself, and it seems absurd that this idea hadn't come along sooner. Known for his outspokenness and encyclopedic knowledge of music, Costello has proven to be the ideal host for such a format. His guests have already included Sir Elton John, Bill Clinton, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, M. Ward, Ron Sexsmith and on and on. Not only does he join guests onstage for musical collaborations, he draws candid, intimate conversation from the featured guest thanks to his easy-going charm and intelligence. Costello's success comes from being a huge fan of music himself, and the show has already provided viewers with legendary performances, and it marks Costello's arrival as rock 'n' roll's premier ambassador and statesman.

4. There's really no use trying to sum up Costello's greatest hits here. Yes, he's as well known for "Veronica" (co-written with Paul McCartney) as he is "Pump It Up" or "Watching The Detectives," yet it speaks volumes that I came to know and love his music for the records he made much later in his career, songs that made me want to go back hunting for the rest of his catalogue. His greatest songs, like all great songs, are ones that can be performed both live with a band or simply alone with a guitar. I've seen him perform both ways and both are engaging and spellbinding.

5. The man has done it all. Musically, there are no boundaries to his muse. He's collaborated with everyone from Burt Bacharach to the Pogues, the Brodsky Quartet to Beastie Boys, and his catalogue boasts albums of country, blues, jazz, opera, ballet and covers. He's as prolific and varied as Dylan or the Rolling Stones, yet his voice hasn't changed one bit with age, nor has his passion and wit dimmed with time.

Elvis Costello
Sun, Feb 7 (7 pm)
Winspear Centre, $105 – $315


Vue Weekly, February 4, 2010

Mike Angus profiles Elvis Costello ahead of the concert, Sunday, February 7, 2010, Winspear Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


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