When I heard that Elvis Costello was performing at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I was jealous. Bills had to be paid, among other expenses I committed too, and I made the economical, yet regretful, decision not to spend my money on tickets.
Fate seemed to be tempting my spending urges when it was announced that another date had been added to accommodate the demand for tickets. Still strapped for cash, I tried my best to avoid all email ticket alerts and social medial notices to remind me of my regretful frugality. Flash forward to a week before the concert and a close friend of mine … out of the blue … asked me if I wanted to be her guest to the second concert … for free. Apparently, fate likes to play games with me. Either that, or Karma saw fit to reward my dedication to music.
I have a storied and emotional connection with Elvis Costello’s music. Back in college, I purchased my first Elvis Costello CD. It was a greatest hits album of his work with The Attractions. After my first listen, I was hooked. “Pump It Up”, “Radio Radio”, “Accidents Will Happen”, “Man Out Of Time” … with 21 stellar cuts, it’s definitely on my list of best CDs I purchased in college.
The first track of that album, “Alison”, ended up being a song that I played on repeat after my college sweetheart broke my heart. Though I’m still not sure whether that song was particularly apropos to having a broken heart, the lyrics have always made me get misty eyed.
“I’m not going to get too sentimental like those other sticky valentines, ‘cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody. I only know it isn’t mine.” …. <sniff sniff> …
Elvis was also responsible for one my greatest working experiences ever. After passing the bar exam, I was working in a small boutique law firm. We represented a production company that was producing a live-to-tape concert series for VH1 classics named “Decades Rock Live”, an hour long program that featured a legacy artist who was then paired with modern day recording artists to perform each other’s songs. One of the artists we featured was Elvis Costello, and he had requested to work with Fiona Apple, Billie Joe Armstrong and Death Cab for Cutie.
Though I had spent virtually all of my time behind the computer and phone at my desk, in the office, to negotiate and draft agreements, I was asked to go on location (The Trump Taj Mahal) for the taping of that episode to handle production matters. It was an experience that reshaped my opinion of the work that I was doing. Being in thick of it all, watching how the episode got taped, watching the artists figure out creative logistics and watching their genius bloom on stage, was n0t only eye-opening but extremely soul-satisfying. Being able to attend the after concert party was pretty cool too.
To be able to see Elvis at the Hollywood Bowl, along side the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was amazing. I’ve always know that Elvis was musical genius. To see his work performed with orchestral arrangements was … to put it simply … sublime.
In between songs, he threw in stories about the meaning of the works he about to perform. He told us about how “Accidents Will Happen” was written on the way to Mexico, how “Veronica” was written about his grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s, how he wrote “Shipbuilding” (a song about giving jobs to veterans after wars) 30 years ago and Chet Baker playing on the original recording.
The most poignant moments of the concert, for me at least, occurred at the end. He closed his set with a heart-tugging rendition of Burt Bacharach’s power-ballad “God Give Me Strength”. He left the stage, but I knew that he would be called upon to perform an encore.
He prefaced the encore by thanking Linda Ronstat for covering the song on her debut album; thankful that he was able to earn enough money with the song to keep his music career going. Then he performed “Alison”.
I sat back on the Hollywood Bowl bench and let it his performance consume me. I wasn’t reminiscing about anything in particular. I was focused on the music. On the arrangement. Then I notice that the arm holding my camera was slightly trembling. The next thing I knew, my vision got blurry.
It doesn’t happen very often, but a performance moved me to shed a tear. I wasn’t anticipating it. It just happened … but you know what? Beautiful music … It can do that to a grown man.
Ben Folds opened for Elvis. I got into Ben Folds’ music when a member of my a cappella group arrange a Ben Folds Five song, “Evaporated”, for our group to sing. Like Elvis, Ben Folds’ musical knowledge far superior than the norm.
During his set, he took the time to emphasize the importance of symphony orchestras, joking that, “some towns have symphony orchestras, and some don’t … and the ones that don’t suck.” He also acknowledged the problem with the music industry today, indicating before the performance of a piano concerto he wrote, that he was only able to create his work with the help of a generous corporate sponsorship with Acura, and how a record label in today’s economic landscape would have never given him the resources to create what he did.
I was hoping he was going to perform “Kate” (my favorite Ben Folds Five song) with the orchestra, but I can’t complain. His performance was superb.
I was obviously wasn’t approved for a photo pass for this concert, but I hope that you can get an idea of the concert with the pictures I was able to snap with my small Sony point and shoot.