Thursday, July 13, 2006

St. Elvis

Elvis Costello once complained that successful rock musicians, unlike us working stiffs, age into a repertoire instead of into a pension. He neglected to mention that most successful rock musicians make more for an evening’s performance than most people make in a year, but that’s beside the point. The point is that Elvis certainly does have a repertoire, and much like a worker’s pension, he can leverage it any way he wants. At his show last night in Boston with famed New Orlean’s-based blues piano player and songwriter Allen Toussaint, Elvis put his past songs to good use. Toussaint and other members of the New Orleans music community, including a four-piece horn section, rubbed shoulders with members of the Attractions and spun out old Elvis hits with funk, blues and jazz inflections that paid a high dividend. Elvis invested wisely in these players, and his intentions were more than musical. He repeatedly pointed out the plight of New Orleans residents, and he repeatedly attacked the Bush administration. At one point, he singled out a tiny Bush doll the band had propped up on stage, calling it, “life size.” The stunt drew huge cheers, but one couldn’t help wonder how such a spectacle would be received in, say, Texas.

The band played more than Elvis’ songs. They moved with aplomb between his numbers, Allen’s and even a few covers, including a touching rendition of Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” with Elvis watching Allen in wonder while the latter played his piano, and with his characteristic poise, drew the melancholy out of the song like wine from a bottle.


At 8:00 AM, Blogger DougH said...

Elvis Costello would probably be the first to admit that he is extremely fortunate to be able to share a stage with the great Allen Toussaint.

If only more of his fans realized the same thing-- but I suspect most of them don't share the same sense of musical history (though perhaps more than for the average rock performer).

To wit: last year, Elvis II shared a bill with Emmy Lou Harris, and my wife attended. A significant part of the crowd in her section bolted for Harris' performance-- disgusting, ignorant behavior if you ask me. I hope the Elvis fans showed some appreciation for Toussaint this time around.

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Adam Zand said...

Good stuff thoughtbrigade!
Almost makes up for you witnessing the theft of my umbrella at the show - but I digress.

I was going to quibble with your mention of Saint Elvis as we all know it is better phrased as "Elvis is King." However, I remember some things that went through my head that great rainy night by the water with religious overtones ...
I might have called my post "The Gospel Tent According to Elvis + Allen" referring to that piece of heaven on earth known as the smallish tent at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. "I want to be nearer to you" the rain on the tent that is the Fleet Pavillion = the real Gospel tent or maybe rainy night waiting for a friend/loved one to be in your life. Guessing there's a religious backdrop to the lyrics but all good religious songs have relationship overtones - Symbol Prince takes that to the extreme.

Just in case the crowd wasn't sure about the heart and deep felt soul of the show, Allen hit a Professor Longhair medley towards the end.
Crescent City Horns just plain swing all night starting with a fun bop to "(I don't want to go to) Chelsea." Later, I caught a great lyric of 'Lot poorer, but not a lot wiser' in "The Sharpest Thorn."

It was big fun going with Rob (I warned him that I would sing and dance way too much), Ann (inspired and paid for our interactive dining at Legal's LTK concept spot) and Fred, who pointed out that Elvis' dapper Nudie was suit inspired by Graham Parsons

Dough, don't worry the crowd was very cool (except for the corporate tool looking umbrella theives).

Peace Love and Understanding

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Adam Zand said...

BIG THANKS AGAIN to Ashley Gagnon (some day to be the most powerful woman in the music bidniz) and her great East side ADR contacts at Universal Music.

Ash, I owe you another drink(s) in Santa Monica!


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