Saturday, April 16, 2016

#206 - Wow, Has It Really Been A Month?

I knew it had been a while since I last posted anything, but I looked and found out it has been just over a month since my last entry. Much too long.

I suppose one reason for the gap in posts is that I haven't really felt I had anything to say. Every time I thought about making an entry, I shied away. Why? Because the two topics that kept coming to mind, religion and politics, were not something I felt like trying to write about.

It isn't that I don't have strong positions on both subjects; I do. However, I also know that my views in each area put me at odds with, I suspect, most of my family and friends. Not that that alone would stop me. On the other hand, it could be argued that if one is making a noise simply to make a noise, what is the point.

I suppose that also holds for saying something simply to say something, although it could be argued that is exactly what I am doing here. Point taken. So I have chosen not to compound things by adding politics or religion to the mix.

Music or musical tastes might be an equally dangerous topic, but here goes. Last night, the family went to see Elvis Costello and opening act Larkin Poe at the Egyptian Theater, a wonderful art deco style theater in the heart of downtown Boise.

Our son has been exposed to Costello's music off and on throughout his life, but last night was his first live exposure to the man. My wife and I had been lucky enough to see him eleven years previous, and I was interested to see how this show compared aside from the much higher ticket prices.

Both shows were equally good in my mind, yet were night and day to one another. The first show, in 2005, took place in a smaller club and was mainly standing room only. The concert itself was electric and everyone in the crowd, aged 15 to 50 or so, seemed a part of that excitement.

One other thing I remember about that first concert is that Elvis himself did not interact that much with the crowd. He would do three or four songs in a row and not say anything in-between. Not that he was different or impersonal. It was just that the show was completely about the music.

Part of that may also have been due to the fact that he had been briefly hospitalized a few weeks earlier for an illness that had already caused him to postpone this show and led to cancellation of a few other dates. (One thing making the two shows somewhat similar is the fact that Elvis seemed to be fighting a bit of a cold last night.)

Fast forward to 2016. Elvis could now be seen as an elder statesman of rock (he turns 62 this year) and is certainly known and respected by many music lovers for his encyclopedia knowledge of musical styles and artists unknown to casual listeners but who were influential to many performers, including Costello himself.

The 2016 show, even though it took place in a slightly larger venue, was much more intimate in feel. Part of that was no doubt due to the fact that we all had places to sit, helping to make the event feel as if we had all been invited to an informal gathering of friends to laugh and sing a bit.

Also bumping up the intimacy factor was the interspersing of personal stories, anecdotes, and jokes between songs. These drew upon and were an extension of the stories related in last year's wonderful memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. The stories themselves were punctuated by various pictures and graphics displayed behind Elvis on a giant box made to look like a television set from the 1960s.

The third aspect of last night's show that made it seem and feel more intimate is that, aside from the final 30 minutes or so when he performed with his opening act Larkin Poe, the show was a musical monologue, just Elvis and his guitar (or one of the ten or so he had on stage to choose from, most of them acoustic) or piano.

In addition to the pictures of his parents and from his childhood on display, the piano added emphasized the more familial feel of this show, as it belonged to his wife, noted jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall.

Elvis mixed older and newer songs together, giving each a slightly different feel from the original to keep it fresh yet maintaining enough of the original version to make it familiar. On stage, he seemed relaxed and both content and comfortable with his musical legacy (even performing a number from Goodbye Cruel World, an album I believe he once referred to as his worst), a man perhaps finally comfortable in his own skin.

Others may mention that other Elvis, Presley, but to me, this Elvis is still king. Long may he reign.