Friday, September 14, 2007

Elvis Costello and the NC Symphony

So Elvis (the real Napoleon Dynamite) Costello held forth at Regency park last night for a nearly sold out house on a cool September evening. The programme began with an excerpt from Il Songo, his adaptation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. He reminded us in his world Puck sounded like a saxaphone. This literal warm-up led into a fine rendition of "All This Useless Beauty." Elvis' voice, sounding brittle but warm on this first song, was famously full by the end of the evening. The first half of the program was relatively short (four songs plus the orchestra piece) and was closed out by the beautiful "The Birds will Still Be Singing" from The Juliet Letters. A note about the arrangements here: the songs that were arranged by those who compose for orchestra were more successful than some of Elvis' attempts. That is not to say that Elvis didn't have his compositional moments, especially in the second half of the show.

Attractions pianist Steve Nieve joined the proceedings for the second half and it really started to feel like an Elvis Costello show. Steve cajoled the orchestra with his brilliant playing and the whole affair went up a notch. Highlights from the second half included two songs from Painted from Memory. "God Give Me Strength" and "I Still have that Other Girl in My Head" were very close approximations of their recorded originals but sung in a more relaxed, focused way than the CD versions.
Speaking of focused, "Shipbuilding" was extremely so. It's amazing how beautiful that song is in performance no matter how much you may have enjoyed it as the closer of Punch the Clock. "Accidents Will Happen" and "Green Shirt" from Armed Forces were deftly arranged for orchestra as to not completely take all the edge off them.
The perennial show closer "Alison" was again nearly the last musical statement of the evening. Neatly rearranged chords showcased the versatility of this melody in the first verse but reverted to its familliar audience-sing-along form from the first chorus on.

A quick note about Elvis' stage persona: ever the genial host, he was also deadpanning facial expressions and gestures based on what the orchestra was playing or going to play and it was very entertaining. Combine this with patter about The Dixie Chicks, NASCAR and the birth of his twin sons and you get the feeling he was quite ready to chat a bit. I believe this is a strong format for him as he likes to talk and genuinely connect with quieter crowds.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Fabulous. Makes me wish I had been there. Maybe next time. -g-