Morning Music: Elvis Costello at Woodstock 99

Elvis CostelloAs I like to do when I highlight a particular artist, I end this week with a live set of said artist. This week, it has been Elvis Costello. And do I have a wonderful one: Elvis Costello at Woodstock 99. It will make up for my slighting the early albums at the same time that it is too early for him to perform stuff that I’m not intimately familiar with.

The second song is one that I had thought about using this week, “Mystery Dance.” When I first heard that song, I was still in my teens and I knew exactly what he was talking about. Sex really is an art, and it should not be attempted by two novices. So at the time, it made me feel normal. As an old man, it’s just hilarious, but in the kindest way.

There are lots of things to love about Elvis Costello. He’s got a great voice — capable of conveying any emotion (something I find distinctly lacking in the huge pop stars). Musically, he’s always interesting — never boring, but never too difficult (even on The Juliet Letters). But mostly, he’s just really smart. It’s nice to know what he has to say. I feel like I grew up with him. When he was angry, I was angry; when he started figuring out life, I started figuring out life. I really ought to get some of his newest albums to see if we are still growing together — or more likely, not growing together.

5 thoughts on “Morning Music: Elvis Costello at Woodstock 99

  1. I was at a client’s office a few days ago replacing their router, and it transpired that their PPPoE password was stored in the old router but not written down anywhere. So I had to call AT&T to reset the password, and they asked me all of the usual questions PLUS the security question: “Who is your favorite singer?”

    Well, the joke here is that I was the one who set up their account – ten or fifteen years ago – but I didn’t remember whether I’d answered that question on my own behalf, or on behalf of my client. (They couldn’t even venture a guess as to which singer _they_ would have named.) So I decided that it must have been my own answer; now the only problem was “who was my favorite singer ten or fifteen years ago?” I took a guess – “Elvis Costello?” – and as it turned out I was correct.

    It’s nice to know that, in a changing world, some things are constant.

    Speaking of The Juliet Letters – he and the Brodsky Quartet only did a few shows on that tour, and sadly I couldn’t go to any of them. But they did release a few CD singles from that tour – each with a live version of a song from the album, backed by a cover song. Their covers of “They Didn’t Believe Me” and “God Only Knows” remain among my very favorite Elvis tracks, and that means they’re among my favorites, period.

    • You are unusual in your love of The Juliet Letters. I tend to think of it like Dylan’s Self Portrait: an interesting experiment. But I should pick up a copy. I might like it better now.

      I think what you are talking about has led to more recent security questions being of the form “Childhood hero” or “First pet’s name.” Over the years I would have said: Elvis Costello or Lou Reed or Jane Siberry or Jonathan Richman or Dylan or Jules Shear — even Frank Sinatra. I think you got lucky!

    • That’s brilliant! I totally have been faced with “security questions” where I have to think, “what would I have answered five years ago?” And since I never remember how I thought five months ago, much less five years, it’s a crapshoot.

  2. This is glorious.

    I haven’t been at my computer most of this week, so it took me a while to digest these Elvis posts. I listened to “Black And White World” on my phone and I had no idea what you were writing about. With a good set of headphones, listening to it on my computer — shit in a sack, that’s one fuckbasket of an amazing bass line. It’s astounding. You can’t hear the bass. on phone speakers.

    Elvis doing “Valentine” I already knew. “Psycho” is amazing but kinda creepy. “I Want You” goes to places I don’t want to revisit. “Sleep Of The Just” is as good a demonstration of Elvis’s voice as there is. The man can sing.

    He farts around with the key in “Veronica” in this video, but he’s still perfectly in tune. I love the topless gal during that song. And Elvis mashing “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” with “New Amsterdam.” The kids look completely perplexed.

    I adored this video, although the aspect ratio was wrong. Is that Nick Lowe on the keyboards?

    • Bruce Thomas is a great bass player; it’s a shame he hates Costello so much. No, that’s Steve Nieve on piano. Of all The Attractions, he is the one Costello has the closest musical relationship with. I think the last time I saw Costello, it was just him and Nieve. I thought the combo of the Beatles’ tune with “New Amsterdam” was brilliant too. I have to admit, I saw very little of the video. I just put them on and listen to them while I work. It was a good performance, although he did seem particularly full of himself. I guess this was right about the time of the Austin Powers film.

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