Baltimore City Paper, May 3, 2006

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An old punk bitches

Alix Tobey Southwick

Jess Harvell's snarky comments about Elvis Costello's commissioned ballet score Il Sogno and Mr. Costello's appearance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on April 21 (Baltimore Weekly, April 19) did not make me tear up my box-seat tix for Friday.

I attended as planned, and to say that I enjoyed the entire concert would be a gross understatement. My own appreciation for Mr. Costello's music began with the purchase of an import vinyl copy of My Aim Is True, prior to its U.S. release in 1977. My enthusiasm continues uninterrupted to include his most recent works, as well as all of his past.

A serious artist can often annoy the unsophisticated fan who is incapable of appreciating the result of the artist's growth and new abilities. Did Mr. Costello really crawl "into his own ass sometime in the mid-'80s," as Harvell suggests, or did he learn to read and write music, allowing him to communicate complex arrangements and compositions to other artists? His collaborations with Nick Lowe, producer of Armed Forces, haven't ended with the '80s. Steve Nieve still plays piano with Elvis. I think these fellows know a thing or two about music, and they've known Mr. Costello since the beginning. Judging by the concert I witnessed, we should all probably do well to follow Mr. Costello's example and crawl into our respective asses. No doubt we will be much improved.

Finally, for Philistine Harvell to dis the BSO, a world-class orchestra, makes me angry indeed. What does Harvell mean by "actual classical music"? Perhaps something done before the mid-1980s? Not only did the BSO capture the magic of Costello's vision of A Midsummer Night's Dream, they also swung like Charles Mingus, and seriously rocked out to new orchestral arrangements by Costello and Nieve of Costello's older tunes.

I enjoyed last year's Elvis Costello concert at Ram's Head Live, but this concert with the BSO showcased Costello's considerable talents as a composer, lyricist, musician, and vocalist in a variety of genres. Don't confuse him with some ancient rocker who has taken to standards in his dotage. At fiftysomething, this man is still making important music and has not lost his chops. In my box at the Meyerhoff, there weren't any faux punks whining that Elvis Costello didn't sing "Oliver's Army" and how they really liked his jittery persona better. This old punk bitch would have dropped her opera glasses long enough to toss the brat over the rail.

Alix Tobey Southwick


Baltimore City Paper, May 3, 2006

Reader Alix Tobey Southwick writes about Elvis Costello's concert with Steve Nieve and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Friday, April 21, 2006, Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, MD.


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