Bursting onto the music scene as one of the first New Wave artists in
the late 70's, Elvis Costello was often thought to be a flash in the pan.
After all, he had Elvis Presley's first name, Lou Costello's last (he actually
appropriated his mother's maiden name) and Buddy Holly's glasses.
This persona was obviously crafted just to get attention. Behind
the name however was a talented musician who could churn out a seemingly
endless supply of short, fast, infectious rock tunes. His style has
evolved and changed over the years, but Elvis Costello is still creating
new music and releasing albums 30 years later.
In 2005 Elvis Costello and his back-up band the Imposters played a pair
of shows in a small club in Memphis Tennessee which were filmed in high
definition and released on SD DVD. That concert is now available
on a Blu-ray disc under the appropriate title Elvis Costello and the
Imposters - Club Date - Live in Memphis.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Elvis Costello perform three times,
but never in a small intimate club setting like this one. Even though
he and the Attractions (consisting of Steve Nieve on keyboards, drummer
Pete Thomas, and bass player Davey Faragher (who replaces the original
bassist Bruce Thomas)) have gained a few pounds and look a bit older, they
can still rock when the mood strikes them. They start the concert
off with some old classics to get the audience rev'ed up, Waiting for
the End of the World, Radio Radio, and Mystery Dance, and then
mixes in some of his later songs. The concert material draws heavily
from his album Delivery Man, which was released the year before
this event took place, with nine songs from that 13 song album appearing.
If you're a fan of that album you'll undoubtedly enjoy this concert more
than someone who's never heard it, like me. Even thought the material
was new though, these generally slower songs were good, and I'm sure they'll
grow on my.
Though Elvis and the Attractions do their best and have a good time
and they do manage to rock out, it's easy to tell that they are past their
prime. Elvis' voice is getting a little old and he has trouble hitting
some of the notes that he once did. He's not as smooth as he once
was on the intro to High Fidelity for example. It was a bit
too gritty sounding. You could tell he was getting tired by the end
of the concert too. Peace, Love, and Understanding didn't
have the powerful vocal edge that it should have. The part where
he sings "Where is that har----mony? Sweet harmony..." is simplified,
he doesn't hit all of the myriad notes that he did years ago. The
last song of the concert, Pump it Up, was a bit sloppy too.
The lyrics weren't as crisp and precise as they were when he sung it a
couple of decades ago. He does much better on the more recent songs,
which are generally not as challenging vocally as the songs that he wrote
when he was 25 years old.
This isn't an embarrassing concert with an old man trying to recapture
his youth though. Elvis and the Attractions do a solid job and present
a good solid show, it's just not the show it would have been 20 year ago.
The songs preformed are:
1. Waiting for the End of the World
2. Radio Radio
3. Mystery Dance
4. Blue Chair
6. Country Darkness
7. Blame it on Cain
8. Either Side of the Same Town
9. High Fidelity
10. The Judgement
11. Monkey to Man
12. The Monkey
13. I Still Miss Someone (w/Emmylou Harris)
14. Heart Shaped Bruise (w/Emmylou Harris)
15. Wheels (w/Emmylou Harris)
16. The Delivery Man
17. Hidden Charms
18. Alison / Suspicious Minds
19. Peace Love and Understanding
20. Pump it Up
This concert was filmed in high definition and the 1.78:1 image looks
very good. The close-ups were especially impressive and had very
good definition and detail. Viewers can easily make out the copious
amounts of sweat rolling down Elvis' face, the grain in his guitar, and
the heavy makeup that Emmylou Harris was wearing. The medium
shots were a bit on the soft side and this is probably due to the lighting
on the stage. On the digital side, things look pretty good too.
Aliasing and posterization weren't a problem, and I didn't notice any macroblocking.
There was some cross-coloration though, most notably when the camera pans
over Elvis' mic from a medium distance. The criss-crossed wire head
of the microphone produces a little bit of color, but this is fairly minor.
Overall a nice looking disc, especially for a live concert.
This disc offers a PCM uncompressed stereo soundtrack as well as a DTS
5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. While the PCM track was nice, I
actually preferred the DTS track. It gave a more encompassing feeling
and put the viewer in the middle of the crowd. The mix was pretty
good overall though I did have some problems with it. I thought the
bass was a bit too prominent in some songs, especially Allison where it
tends to drown out the other instruments. Elvis' guitar could have
gotten a boost during Peace, Love, and Understanding too. The clangy
rhythm track wasn't nearly as forceful as it could have been. These
are minor things and one could criticize most live concert recordings in
a similar fashion. The audio quality was very good. The disc
boasts a full dynamic range and clear sound with no hiss or distortion.
This disc also has four bonus tracks that weren't included in the concert
itself. I'm not sure why they clipped these since the concert was
released straight to SD DVD. I would have preferred it if they left
them in the show, but at least we have them here.
My Baby's Gone - with Emmylou Harris
There's a Story in Your Voice
Button My Lip
Sleepless Nights - with Emmylou Harris
There are a couple of featurettes on the disc too. The first one,
Off the Beaten Path shows Elvis and drummer Pete Thomas taking a
drive through Memphis talking about the history of the city and their previous
visits there. They stop off at the Stax record museum and then travel
to Oxford, Mississippi where Costello's album The Delivery Man was
recorded. The whole thing runs a little less than an hour, and though
there were some interesting parts, I thought it was a bit too long.
After 20 minutes of people reminiscing informally, I've had enough.
The other featurette is Radio and the Fan, a short 4-minute look
at the people waiting out in line for tickets to the show, and singing
classic Costello songs (badly.)
I did enjoy this disc, though I did find myself wishing that someone
had recorded a concert like this back in the early 80's. Elvis and
the Attractions play a good selection of their old songs that catapulted
them to stardom, but they also have a fair amount of more recent songs,
including several from The Delivery Man. Fans of the group will surely
enjoy this, though people with only a passing familiarity to his songs
probably won't enjoy it as much. Recommended.