Elvis Costello Breaks Like the Wind

Categories: Events, Music
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Elvis Costello at the House of Blues last night
Three things, among many, overheard at last night's private Elvis Costello show at the House of Blues: 1) "I'm not familiar with Elvis Costello, but it beats staying in my hotel room." 2) "There's a lot of money in power transmission couplings." And, 3) "You guys really need a convention center hotel." Regarding the latter, it would seem the Windpower Conference and Exposition that's in town through tomorrow has eaten up every last hotel room downtown -- 20,000-plus attendees will do that.

Last night's Costello show was a fund-raiser for the Wind Foundation -- tickets went for $125 and a very VIP $225. It had a corporate getaway vibe: name tags, cold cuts, golf shirts, khaki pants, drink tickets. Attendees milling around the floor till the 8 p.m. opening note chatted in myriad accents -- Japanese, German, Branson -- about interest-rate management, renting out their ranches to the highest bidders with the biggest turbines and how wind might be the future, some day, but there really ain't no money in it yet. Not unless you're putting on an expo where registration for nonmembers starts at $1,150.

Or: Unless you're Elvis Costello playing a private wingding. But he didn't take the money and run -- far from it. All by his lonesome with but a handful of guitars, Costello poured sweat through an estimable setlist that included The Hits ("Alison," "Pump It Up," "Veronica"), the classics (opener "The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes," a here-comes-the-fuzz "Watching the Detectives," "I Hope You're Happy Now"), some relative obscurities ("God's Comic," "Radio Sweetheart" commingled with "Jackie Wilson Said") a few songs off the new record and even "a song I hate," which is how he introduced the 27-year-old (!) "Everyday I Write the Book."

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Initially the crowd seemed indifferent, save for the die-hard handful who'd perched themselves along the stage well before showtime and sang along to every song, even the new "Down Among the Wines and Spirits" and "Sulphur to Sugarcane." Costello started out by alternating between the familiar and the obscure (there were, as well, several cuts from The Delivery Man), his familiar pop-punk-by-way-of-the-pub and the country-blues of recent vintage. He even played brand-new, unrecorded cuts -- like "Josephine," which he introduced by saying "this is some old rock and roll ... or, I should note, what rock and roll sounded like in 1921."

Despite the fund-raising gig, he stuck to a setlist intended for the diehards and sang holy hell out of it -- he held back nothing. And so, with each passing song, with each drop of sweat pouring off Costello's grinning mug, the crowd got more and more into it. He'd made converts of the nonbelievers, who he had singing along to the call-and-response chorus of "God's Comic": "Now I'm dead, now I'm dead, now I'm dead/Now I'm dead, now I'm dead/And I'm going on to meet my reward." By the time he closed shop with "Pump It Up," the crowd had earned its jump-it-up reward.

Incidentally, Costello's booked in the Meyerson this weekend with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Tix are still available. I told Pete I'd review that one for DC9. In the meantime, Patrick Michels is at the Wind Expo, where George W. Bush is scheduled to speak right about now. I win.

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