Beyond Belief

Elvis Costello Solo – Rococo Theatre – Lincoln, Nebraska – 3 March 2015

Innovative, bold, massive talent – a skillful and charming performer – a maestro of relevancy. Classic.


And now a few words about myself.

General condition: anxious. Neck rigid, and shoulders up around the ears. If you took a quarter and lobbed it at me it would bounce off. You could smash a wooden chair by swinging it into my body. Perhaps someone should.

It has been this way for years. I will not relax. Tense practically all the time. For ages I thought it was behavior – I thought that relaxed was essentially a way to be or not to be. Something I could choose. Now I don’t think that. I think it is pathology. No more avoidable, nor shameful, nor blameworthy, than having, say, a serious genetic medical condition – hypertension, or elevated cholesterol. You don’t want it, necessarily, but there it is.

Though, unlike blood pressure issues, my pathological unrelaxedness bleeds over into personal relationships – a fair amount in some cases – and I am, very often, no goddamn picnic to be around.

Once in a while music can treat my condition. Like diet and exercise. Like taking a pill. Even live music can treat my condition. For example, a recital hall swirling with Ravel or Bach. Even as much as I may look forward to a rock and roll show, I don’t anticipate that it will relax me.

Scores of articles and over a dozen books have been written about Elvis Costello. That’s a lot of words devoted to a fellow who (famously) dislikes writing about music and music criticism. So this will be short.

Last night Elvis Costello shattered my expectations. I had seen him before and I am a pretty big fan, (yes, I have the middle-career and recent stuff, too,) so I knew I was going to enjoy the show. But guess what, I also relaxed. It was an inspirational and truly unforgettable evening. My highest praise: relaxing beyond belief. Thank you.

THIS IS A MUSIC STAR – ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES                                                                                            

He has so many great songs it is difficult to choose. Try these:

Beyond Belief from Imperial Bedroom (1982 Columbia).

Brilliant Mistake from King of America (1986 Columbia).

Come the Mean Times with The Roots from Wise Up Ghost (2013 Blue Note).

So Like Candy from Mighty Like a Rose (1991 Warner Brothers).

Not for the fainthearted:

I Want You from Blood and Chocolate (1986 Columbia).

String Quartet in F, 2nd Movement by Maurice Ravel and performed by Hagen Quartet.

(For an excellent overview of his career and a fascinating profile of Elvis Costello, I suggest thisNew Yorker article by Nick Paumgarten. It is really well done. However, consider skipping it unless you are prepared to learn about or revisit some of his early-career, wince-inducing, caddish, and idiotic episodes.)

4 March 2015

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