MUSIC BOX: Unfaithfully Yours

By on April 13, 2016

Elvis Costello looks to Detour at the Center.

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Much like Bob Dylan’s chameleon-like shenanigans, Elvis Costello’s fan base has come to expect the unexpected. Of course, this is coming from the youngster who changed his name from Declan Patrick MacManus to borrow the legendary Elvis name, though he’s been bolder since. The most infamous of his headline-grabbing mishaps came during his late ‘70s bad boy era when he used the N-word to refer to Ray Charles and James Brown, adding “blind” and “ignorant” to describe Charles.

As he puts it in his autobiography, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,” he was an “arrogant bastard back then.” He goes on to bash himself in the memoir for his naughty ways, trading his “one of a kind” childhood love and first wife for casual sexual encounters, and even labels the failed 17-year relationship with Pogues bassist Cait O’Riordan as punishment for the things he’d done. It’s heavy subject matter, but Costello’s unabashed honesty is clearly a similar channel that has led to his aggressive song craft.

Then there are the highlights of Costello’s comical side, which the public has often witnessed. One of the best stories begins in 1977, involving Costello and “Saturday Night Live,” and then a 22-year-fast-forward when the joke came full circle with The Beastie Boys. After an argument with his label in ’77, Costello was scheduled to play his song “Less Than Zero” on SNL, but stopped the song mid-intro and launched into “Radio, Radio”—a protest song criticizing the commercialization of radio, which SNL and his label had forbidden him to play. He was banned from the show, but enjoyed an immediate boon to his success. Then, in 1999 during the SNL 25th anniversary show, The Beastie Boys were scheduled to perform “Sabotage” when Costello came on stage and said, “I’m sorry ladies and gentleman, but there’s really no reason to do this song here tonight.” The Beasties became his backing band for the final laugh, another version of “Radio, Radio.”

A storied career that has thrived for four decades—including more than 24 studio releases and screen appearances as an actor—is rare. The England native moved to Ireland before coming to the U.S. He now lives in Canada with his twin eight-year-old sons and wife, jazz pianist Diana Krall. A life with such a full circle seems worthy of a deep breath, of happiness, but the latter is difficult to muster for the prolific songwriter and producer.

“If you’re asking: Am I happier now? No, I’m not happier now, because it’s not a competition,” Costello told The Guardian last fall. “Happy, yes. Grateful, yes. But it’s not a contest between the reality of when I was this age and the way I am now. You can’t have that. You don’t get to do that. You get to live when you are living.”

Regardless of Costello’s reputation as embracing the silly, the wild, the political, the anti-religious, and the over-the-top; the crux of his musical career is that of a serious focus on songwriting. He has a deep appreciation for modern music and especially the three-minute song. He’s been faithful to his music, and it’s paid off.

“You’ve got to take something seriously,” Costello said. “Maybe it’s the tiny bit of me that isn’t English, the Irish bit, that has saved me from the affliction that everything is a joke. It’s not.”

Costello’s upcoming “Detour” show is said to be part-scripted and part-freestyle, featuring him on guitar and piano, and also collaborating with his opening act, Larkin Poe. Sisters Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell will open the show as Larkin Poe with a bluesy roots-rock sound before joining Costello with their mandolin, kick-drum, guitar, lap steel and pitch-perfect harmonies.

Elvis Costello with guests Larkin Poe, 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Center Theater. $151-$191. JHCenterForTheArts.org, 733-4900.

 

Philanthropic and jammin’, California’s Brothers Gow will play a late-night set at the Tavern this Saturday.

Philanthropic and jammin’, California’s Brothers Gow will play a late-night set at the Tavern this Saturday.

Cali rock and philanthropy

Dipping into a late night bar in Whitefish, Montana, last spring, I happened upon the well-seasoned Ocean Beach, California quintet, Brothers Gow. The skilled double-guitar and keyboard attack featuring complex arrangements and focused improvisation brought me back to the late ‘90s jam band era, complete with a psychedelic light show and a progressive rock flare. The performance led me to dig into the band’s history, which surfaced an array of side projects ranging from philanthropic to the entrepreneur-minded. The Brothers Gow Music Foundation raises money to put instruments in schools and the band was even recognized by the House of Representatives for their hometown contributions. Gotta love live music in the off-season.

Brothers Gow, 10 p.m. Saturday at Town Square Tavern. Free. 733-3886. PJH
Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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