Saturday, October 11, 2008

play one more for my radio sweetheart

I could get used to walking to Golden Gate Park for concerts--though yes, I skipped the gig by that one major U.K. act back in August (I was waiting for an important delivery, dammit!). As if the ease of proximity weren't enough, I was in low-key mode all weekend and wandered over to the Star Stage in the early afternoon instead of my usual pre-dawn stakeout. Even then, I still had plenty of time to get comfortable for Elvis Costello's set.

Elvis Costello's High Whine and Spirits, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, October 5, 2008: Love it or hate it, you gotta admit that Elvis Costello hasn't stuck to the typical rock-and-roll rule book. I admit I haven't followed along every step of the way; not so long ago, for example, I realized his jazz forays are not for my thing, and I couldn't convince myself to check out his collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony either.

Call me predictable, but my favorite Elvis incarnation is with the Impostors (I was a bit too young for the Attractions, alas). As luck would have it, the Impostors were represented at this gig by Pete Thomas and Davey Farragher, while Austin DeLone filled in for Steve Nieve on the keyboards. The top of their set referred to their history with a triple shot of "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," "Uncomplicated," and "Radio Sweetheart." Had I been sitting in a chair, I would've toppled out of it upon hearing "Uncomplicated." I don't think I've ever heard it live; even better, it comes from probably my favorite Elvis album.

Elvis Costello, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Oct. 5, 2008

But when the set is billed as "Elvis Costello's High Whine and Spirits," you can't expect merely the greatest hits, and the musicians obliged, much as they did at Elvis's 2006 festival appearance. After the opening trifecta, Bill Kirchen and Jim Lauderdale soon joined in for a handful of covers and stayed on for the rest of the set. Also not surprising: Emmylou Harris's arrival for "Love Hurts" or the near closer "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" for the second time this weekend.

In no way, though, was this some run-of-the-mill set. For one thing, Elvis's young twins watched their dad (apparently for the first time) from the side of the stage. Wearing big headphones to protect their ears and High Whine tour t-shirts to support their father, they stomped away and waved drumsticks in time to the music--as befits their lineage. Elvis referred to them quite often during the set too, his paternal pride clearly evident and very endearing.

The toddlers nearly stole the show, but they had to cede the spotlight to a few dozen more guests--mostly the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus, accompanied by Jon Langford, Warren Hellman, and even more friends--for the moving finale. Their performance further punctuated a set that beautifully embodied everything Hardly Strictly Bluegrass represents.

Elvis Costello, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Oct. 5, 2008

I also caught most of Ben Kweller's set. It's been a while since the one time I've seen him in concert (opening for Evan Dando and Jon Brion), but it wasn't hard to determine that his music has definitely matured, as has he. He even dedicated one song to his wife and son. Ben and his band sounded great, and I think even the older folks around me were impressed.

Yeah, I could really get used to walking to Golden Gate Park for concerts.

See also:
» used to be one of the rotten ones
» now I try to be amused
» searching for light in the darkness of insanity

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