Pump it up!
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Elvis Costello recently announced on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night television show that he will play 10 concerts next February at the Gramercy Theater on East 23rd Street.
That sound you hear is me tingling.
Any news of an upcoming Costello show in town is enough to set my mind reeling with schemes of obtaining great seats. You see, I have seen Costello play more than 80 gigs since my first one, back on Dec. 2, 1977, at the Riviera Theater in Chicago.
I was going to journalism graduate school at Northwestern University. Finals were approaching but I couldn’t miss the concert, even no matter how cold and frosty it was outside. I’d been deeply impressed by Costello’s debut album, “My Aim Is True.” (To put it bluntly, I played the album so often that, to this day, I’m surprised that I didn’t flunk out of school in that trimester.)
My Aim Is True, Too
My devotion to this 68-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist from London and Liverpool has defied common sense over the years. Such as when I saw him and his excellent band, the Attractions, play shows on three consecutive nights from Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in 1981 (Squeeze opened!) at the Palladium. Or when I saw them perform four shows in five nights in 1995 at the Beacon Theater. Or when I caught seven shows in U.S. four cities in 1996. Or ... You get the picture.
Why Do I Do This?
Costello is the ultimate entertainer. In all of those shows, I never walked away muttering darkly that he had “mailed it in.” He truly cares about his audience and wants people to enjoy themselves. His on-stage asides are sometimes as much fun as the music. He has style and a wonderful sense of irony – like when he opened with a rollicking version of his song “Tokyo Storm Warning” amid a monsoon at the Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 9, 1991.
Or the night when the sound system blew out midway through a show in June 2002 at Radio City Music Hall and he had the presence of mind and wit to break into an impromptu version of his song, “Show with His Own Gun.”
The zenith of his crowd-pleasing instincts occurred in October 1986. Costello played for five nights at the Broadway Theater, backed by two separate bands throughout. On Oct. 24, 1986, he incorporated what he puckishly called The Spectacular Spinning Songbook.
Just a Memory
From the beginning, I forged an attachment to Costello’s concerts. As I once told Costello, Heartbreaker Stan Lynch and Lucinda Williams after a Country Music Television taping in November 2001, I remembered that Costello opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at that show in Chicago in 1977.
Costello and the Attractions played a blistering 50-minute set that night. Then, Petty and his band came out. I have to say that Tom and the Heartbreakers were a letdown – heck, any band would have seemed like a letdown! I was so unmoved by comparison to Petty’s set that I felt a need to walk out.
I related this story to Costello, Williams and Lynch at the CMT taping in 2001. Elvis beamed and patted me on the shoulder, saying, “Thanks, mate.” Then he turned to Lynch and smirked, “See Stan, we were better!”
My Requests for the Gramercy Shows
Costello has dubbed the upcoming shows at the Gramercy Theater “100 Songs and More,” meaning that he intends to go deep into his catalog. Yes! In fact, I have some suggestions for Mr. Costello to perform seldom-played or never-played songs, such as: “White Knuckles,” “Mouth Almighty,” “Room With No Number,” “Senior Service,” “Man Called Uncle,” “You Tripped at Every Step,” “Little Savage,” “You Little Fool,” “Love Went Mad,” “The Element Within Her,” “Home Is Where You Hang Your Head,” “Jack of All Parades,” “I’m Not Angry,” ‘Fish ‘N’ Chip Paper,” “River in Reverse,” “Radio Silence,” “This Town,” “The Other Side of Summer,” “American Without Tears,” “Tears at the Birthday Party,” “How to Be Dumb,” “The Flirting Kind,” “Couldn’t Call It Unexpected No. 4,” “The Human Touch,” “Pretty Words,” “Episode of Blonde,” and “Different Finger.”
You know, something,” Elvis? That’s a pretty darned good set list!