I was exposed to Elvis Costello when I was a kid, like most Americans in my generation and Allison is the song most people I know resonate with the most in that Boston’s Don’t Look Back, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Van Halen’s Jamie’s Crying kind of way. In the seventies, he played with the likes of Dire Straits and his British style, quirkiness and uniqueness reigned amidst a lot of American standards who came out with classics that were more alike than not. Joe Jackson succeeded for similar reasons and their collective diversity and range not to mention sheer volume of hits added to their following.
When I learn that “Stranger In The House” was recorded for the George Jones album, “My Very Special Friends” in 1978, I think, crikey, am I that old? It was the same year that he performed live” on U.K. television for the first time on the “Revolver” programme, hosted by comic genius, Peter Cook. Back then, Europe including Scandinavia was where he mostly performed and obviously his largest following in the early days was from his home hood, England. Good Year for the Roses hit in 1981 and when I hear it today, it’s one of those classics that still sounds fabulous in 2011 and will likely still sound fabulous in 2030.
In the prime of my high school years, “Everyday I Write The Book” not only became a radio station regular, but it quickly moved to #36 in the top 40 U.S. charts, while simultaneously reaching #28 in the U.K. charts. These were prime days for Elvis and while his popularity may have declined over the years, it declined because of an era moved on, not because he lost it, at least not for this fan and follower. I know many in my generation feel the same way and if there’s an opportunity to see him or listen, people will enthusastically do so.
During a recent trip to Montreal hosted by our friends at Festimania, I was able to not just see him perform live, but shoot him on my trusty Canon 7D with about a dozen other reporters and photographers from a platform just below the front stage. Behind us, thousands hung out, standing, sitting, dancing, eating and drinking on the massive Osheaga grounds just over the bridge from central Montreal.
It was a bit of a memory lane for me at that hot summer night concert and I could tell it was the same for others in my generation. Rewind to the mid-eighties which is about the time when things really took off for Elvis in the states. This was prime time for this wanna be and woulda been flower child. Having lived in the U.K. during my college years, I got hit with Elvis love from both sides of the Atlantic, including seeing him live at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club near Leicester Square, not far from my academic and theatre stomping ground in London’s west end. But, it wasn’t just at jazz clubs and outside concert venues that Elvis made some noise. In 1990, his song, “Miracle Man” made an appearance on the soundtrack of the Francis Ford Coppola motion picture, “The Godfather: Part III”. All that said, I resonated with Allison the same way I resonate with blueberries, chocolate and waterskiing – that inner knowing place where everything just makes sense. I think many of us felt that way.
Sadly, I was shooting when he did my favorite number so I couldn’t sit back, appreciate and feel the song but since they only gave us a handful of songs where we could go snap crazy, I saw Elvis through my lens during most of Allison although no doubt, every other shot is blurry because I can’t imagine I wasn’t inwardly tapping my foot and every other limb on my body.
Even though he’s not a youthful Elvis on stage anymore and they opt for more conservative stage backs rather than Madonna and Cher-like out of control ones, he was still inspiring. He even brought in a little of his 1970s past with shadows and light images of hippee-flowers serving as backdrops, yet because it was Elvis and because he played many of his old numbers, it all seemed to work. Plus, he’s Elvis, talented and passionate about his music. AND, it shows. Twenty-something and forty-something year olds alike grooved to the beat of an Elvis they equally loved.
While his site is incredibly informative including a useful timeline from birth till now, it isn’t particularly “social” and interactive but I was able to gather some data on future “showings.” The Revolver Tour took him to a number of U.S. cities before and after Montreal. Below is a short video clip of a sample of his magic performed on stage at Osheaga in late July. If you have a chance to see him, go get those tickets.