I caught of glimpse of the one and only Elvis Costello as he preformed at Riot Fest in Chicago a couple months ago. As much as I wanted to stand there and watch the legend, there were a million other bands playing at that exact moment that I had to see. I walked away disappointed but with a smile on my face because of even the small glimpse I had of him. When he announced his show at The Northrop Auditorium at The University of Minnesota, I knew it was a higher being giving me a chance to actually sit and enjoy a show from the myth, the man, the legend. Okay, I’m definitely being dramatic but that show announcement made my life and I was all smiles as I walked through campus and found myself inside the beautiful auditorium.
After getting my wine in a reusable cup with a lid (kudos to the Northrop for going green and acknowledging the fact that idiots like me would have spilled that glass all over the damn place), I found my seat and settled in for what would turn into a lengthy night of music. Although I’m not typically one for seated shows, it seemed to be the perfect setting for last night. With more than comfortable and cooshy chairs, it was a bit hard to not nod off prior to the performance. Having not been at Northrop in nearly ten years, I had no clue where I was going or if there would be an issues but the smooth entry and close proximity to street parking (because lord knows I’m not paying for parking if I don’t have to), I found myself sitting there, ready to go, about forty minutes before the performance started.
The audience shuffling in was definitely older than the demographic I typically find myself in. Although clearly the youngest one on the floor that was there alone, I didn’t feel out of place at all. I instantly made friends with the older couple sitting next to me. We had the typical “What brought you out tonight?” conversation that lasted until the lights went down and the band took the stage. Their excitement to relive their youth had me stoked for what was to come. I admitted that I probably wouldn’t know many songs performed to which they responded, “Don’t worry, we’ll rock out enough for all three of us.” I could feel myself warming up from either the fun-loving conversation or the wine (you pick) but as the band took the stage, I couldn’t help but raise from my seat and cheer. I may not be able to sing along to the songs to come but I was more than ready to finally watch Elvis Costello do his thing.
Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis Costello is still on top of his game at age 64. With over twenty full length albums and countless collaborations, to say he is a legend is definitely not a stretch. You could feel that as he played through his thirty song set that lasted nearly three hours. With music that dates back to the 1970’s and some new songs that he just released previously this year, Elvis’ setlist was a great mix of a little bit of everything. As mentioned, I really didn’t know much of his material (but was still beyond grateful to get a chance to see him perform) but my new friends next to me kept on telling me that, “He never plays these songs!”. After doing some digging this morning, it became clear that last night’s show was more about the b-side and the songs that he wanted to play instead of the hits and the songs that people wanted to hear. It brought a sense of surprise and excitement to the crowd that I don’t think would have been there had he just played hit after hit.
Although the cheering between songs was deafening, as Elvis and his talented band were performing it was dead quiet. There was a sense of concentration that was easy to spot as Elvis shredded in his unique style on his guitar. That concentration was matched by the concentration on the audience members’ faces as they attempted to not blink as to not miss a single moment of the performance. I’ve talked about the respect that flows from the audience to the stage and vice versa at a concert but that respect seemed to hit an all time high last night. Although it was a calm show, the excitement level and that level of respect had a sense of energy radiating throughout the nearly sold out auditorium. I may not have been able to sing along but I could definitely nod along to the beat and feel myself getting lost in the music.
From the first note of “This Year’s Girl” and until the final sound of “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” (a Brinsley Schwarz cover), I was so happy to be in the seat I was watching the legend I was watching. Thursday night’s show wasn’t my show to sing along to or have a giant epiphany during, it was a show where I could just sit back, take it all in, and let the music hit me in any way it could.
Go see a legend. Even if you can’t sing along to every word of every song, just go see a legend. It is a completely different experience than any other show.