Friday, May 4, 2007

music: Elvis has pummeled the building

Driving up for the last skiing of a crummy season, we saw a billboard for Elvis Costello and the Imposters in Reno. I knew it would be strange to see him in a conference room/ballroom and that his recent Imposters work is channeling his rock impulses, not his wide musical horizons.

Well, it was a pounding, loud, nearly unrelenting set from the Man in black. They played a lot of Attractions' greatest hits, a great "Alibi" off When I was Cruel, an acoustic "Alison", and ended with "Pump it Up". All very predictable. It was nice to hear several songs off Get Happy!, but lacking the loose R'n'B shuffle on the album. Likewise a raucous "Shabby Doll" from Imperial Bedroom but none of the more varied tracks off that ambitious album. And nothing from the poppy albums that followed.

I'd have to lay the blame at Pete Thomas' feet. EC hailed him as a great rock drummer in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, but without a producer to dial him back, he's just hitting hard with the knobs stuck at 7 to 10, and the rest of the band follows.

Elvis' guitar work ever since playing with Marc Ribot has tended towards noise chords accompanied by belting vocals. It's clearly an intentional musical decision, but I don't get it.

Steve Nieve gave a scintillating solo on "Clubland", but for much of the set he played that weird funhouse organ style from early Attractions.

Worthy, but one-dimensional.

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