Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve

Monday, Oct. 11; American Theater

Elvis Costello's this dude from England who wears these big black glasses, used to drink a lot and one time, 16 years ago — the last time he played St. Louis — vowed never to return because KSHE was promoting the show and they weren't even playing the record. (It was Imperial Bedroom — as if anything from that record would have fit between "Two Hangmen" and "Ride My See-Saw.") So apparently he stood up onstage and said, I Will Never Play St. Louis Again, and until now he's stuck to it, which is something to admire, that someone so important and fancy would be kind enough to remember such a declaration and care enough about St. Louis to stick to his word.

You can imagine him going over his tour itinerary in the interim — say, in 1986, right after Blood & Chocolate came out (the album with "I Want You," the scariest love song ever written) — and going, "Detroit. OK. Chicago. Cool. St. Louis. Fine. Kansas Ci — wait. St. Louis? Is that the place with the Arch? Uh, nix that place. Those people are wankers." And then, later on, doing the same thing over again. Just eliminating the city from his world and making everybody here drive up to fucking Chicago to see him maybe — maybe — play his greatest song, "Satellite," from the otherwise mediocre album Spike ("She looks like an illustration of a cocktail party/where cartoon bubbles burst in the air/Champagne rolls off her tongue/like a second language/And it should have been her biggest night /The satellite looks down on her as she begins to cry") or somebody else's favorite song — you've all got them, and if you don't you're missing out on graceful words embroidered into thoughts and strung together like pearls or maybe raspberries or collected into a bouquet of blue eyes. Then he sings them and can make you get a back-neck tingle and a throat lump. This Elvis Costello guy can make you cry, even though he doesn't know you from John Ulett and he doesn't even like the city where you live.

Who'da thunk in 1978 that in 20 years someone would say, "I like Elvis," and have to qualify it? The guy stole the name from the King, and even though the King still reigns, this Costello now co-owns the name, and both Elvis Mitchell and Elvis Grbac have a lot of catching up to do.

And even though he's got 20 years of pop songs out there for us to wade through, he's still offering us beauty: All This Useless Beauty, though ignored and underappreciated, will no doubt make you happy — or sad, maybe (last words of the album: "I want to vanish/This is my last request/I've given you the awful truth/Now give me my rest") — and stands as a biggie in his never-ending repertoire.

He's playing an acoustic-ish set with a dude from his band the Attractions — Steve Nieve — on piano. They released a limited-edition boxed set of this type of show a few years back that's great even though they did a Grateful Dead song.

 
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