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I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Thursday, June 01, 2006

10 reasons why Elvis Costello deserves to sell as many tickets as Carrie Underwood

Living in the Fox Valley, you get used to not seeing certain artists play around here. By certain artists, I mean anyone who isn’t country, classic rock or heavy metal.

If somebody like, say, Elvis Costello is on tour, you pray he hits Milwaukee or Madison and that you can convince enough friends to carpool down south.

Chances are you already know where I’m going with this. Elvis Costello has a show Saturday with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint at Oneida Casino in Green Bay. Sure, you still have to drive a half hour from Appleton to get there, but this is as close to “our backyard” as we likely are going to get.

Costello is one of the best and most important rock performers to play northeast Wisconsin in a number of years. So, of course, his concert isn’t sold out yet. Tickets moved much quicker for “American Idol” country star Carrie Underwood, who was born the same year Costello released his eighth album.

Is it possible the Fox Valley masses don’t know who this man is? Not likely, but they may not know how great he is when the man can’t even get one song played on local rock radio between regular rounds of Styx and Nickelback. With that in mind, here are 10 Elvis Costello songs to download and, hopefully, blow your mind.

“Alison”: An obvious choice, but it’s still my favorite Costello song. With the possible exception of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” no other song sounds as deceptively sweet. If you think it’s just a simple love song, imagine Elvis singing to his old flame while gazing from a long-range riflescope. “My aim is true …”

“Imagination is a Powerful Deceiver”: This “pre-professional recording” tacked on to the Rykodisc version of “My Aim is True” is a little stunner written by Costello when he was in his teens. It puts your high school journal to shame.

“No Action”: Costello’s potent “angry nerd” persona summed up in a furious minute and 59 seconds. “Every time I phone you I just want to put you down.”

“Green Shirt”: The best pop song ever written about being tortured by fascists and/or a girl who won’t go past first base. Of the dozens of Costello one-liners burned in my brain, this song boasts one of the best: “Better send a begging letter to the big investigation/Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?”

“High Fidelity”: This catchy ode to cheating lent its title to Nick Hornby’s book about rock geeks working really hard at not growing up. You know, the very people most likely to love Elvis Costello.

“Motel Matches”: Elvis was known as a new wave wunderkind in his early days, but underneath the skinny ties he always was a classic songwriter. This country weepie from the soul-obsessed “Get Happy!!” (my personal favorite Elvis album) is Exhibit A.

“Boy With a Problem”: It was a highlight of the lush “Imperial Bedroom” from 1982, but I prefer the demo found on the expanded edition of “Trust.” If Bruce Springsteen was what most men wanted to be back then, Elvis Costello was what most men were: weak, bitter and remorseful.

“I Hope You’re Happy Now”: If you take the title at face value, you never knew Elvis at all. This poison valentine from 1986’s “Blood and Chocolate” is a rocking “you know what” to a philandering ex.

“Kinder Murder”: After years of underwhelming albums, Elvis took a cue from Nirvana and roared back with the Attractions in 1994 with the terrific “Brutal Youth” album. Who else could write a song called “Kinder Murder” and make sense of it?

“Complicated Shadows”: Costello wrote this for Johnny Cash, but even the Man in Black would have trouble matching the malevolence Elvis musters on his own version from 1996’s “All This Useless Beauty.” The title sums up his career so succinctly one biographer put it on the cover of his Elvis Costello book.


Blogger Thomas Roz said...

i'm glad as hell it's not selling out. that only proves everything i've ever said about green bay, but more importantly, will only include actual costello fans in the audience, not a bunch of tagalongs with nothing better to do on a saturday night. the $35 price tag probably has something to do with driving away casual listeners.

"oliver's army" -- still my favorite pop song, possibly ever.

3:01 PM  
Blogger mark said...

going to his concert out here in june. still have an extra ticket if you wanna come steve, tom.. whoever

3:06 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Costello. What a nice name. :)

10:36 AM  
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2:02 PM  
Blogger paul said...

What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?

4:19 PM  
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