Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Concert Review: Elvis Costello and the Impostors, Taste of Chicago, Sunday, July 6

First, I must acknowledge the miracle that there was a very dry hour and a half for Elvis's set between torrential downpours for the outdoor concert. Second, I must acknowledge my mixed emotions about the free show. I would have rather paid $50 for an experience more like the show at the Chicago Theatre last October. Instead we got muddy sound, no direct view of the stage, a camera crew that wasn't aware that Steve Nieve was the second most interesting person on the stage, not bass player Davey Faragher (Although I did get to see enough of Nieve to guess that he did indeed really need to go to the bathroom during the show last fall; my other theory for his jittery mannerisms was that he found the best job for an ADD adult.) Even worse, the camera crew seemed to mistake the concert for a baseball game and thought that shots of the crowd could possibly be more interesting than the band. Because it was more of a general audience than one specifically of fans, they played more old songs and not enough material off last year's When I Was Cruel. The pointedly acerbic "Alibi" was the most frustrating omission. But the worst part of it was the lack of collective appreciation by the audience for the talent presented. Most people were there hanging out because it was a fun, free event, but they weren't paying attention. Songs such as "Pump It Up" and "Allison" were perfect for singing along, but it was like singing along to my Walkman, to music that only I was paying attention to since so many around me were engaged in other conversations.

But then there's the flip side, the fact that Elvis got to reach an audience that wouldn't have necessarily ponied up 50 bucks a head to see him. For one baby, Elmo and Elvis were all the same, as she played with and chewed on a Sesame Street book for much of the set. But at other times, her mom bounced her on her knee in time to the music, much to delight of mother and child.  A girl of about 7 danced in the uninhibited way that only little girls do, with an absolute purity to her joy. A rail thin teenage punk boy in an Exploited t-shirt perhaps came to appreciate that punk once had a much broader scope than just hardcore. So for the dedicated Elvis fans, it wasn't the best show, but it was definitely beneficial for the city of Chicago as a whole.

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