El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Elvis Costello at The Wiltern Theatre - May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 - Elvis Costello and The Imposters at The Wiltern Theatre.

June 4, 1978 - Elvis Costello and The Attractions at Hollywood High School. This is the cover of a 45 that was included with the Armed Forces LP.

I was around thirteen years old in the eighth grade attending Blessed Sacrament School two blocks east of Hollywood High School when an up and coming British musician with a iconic American name performed live at the Hollywood High Auditorium with his backing band, The Attractions. I was not in the audience that night as I must have been churning out Pre-Algebra solutions and Hemingway book reports at a record pace during that time and was oblivious to what was happening down the street on Highland Avenue. I had no idea of the significance of that Elvis Costello performance back then nor the number of people I would meet in the next thirty three years who claim to have been at that show. Fast-forward to 2011 to a perfect Los Angeles evening at the deco masterpiece, Wiltern Theatre where Elvis Costello and 2 of the 3 original Attractions plus a new bass player (now called the Imposters) performed an unpredictable epic showcase of hits, obscurities and surprising covers for 2 ½ hours. The show opened with a fast session of familiar songs including “I Hope Your Happy Now“, “Heart of The City“, “The Mystery Dance” and “Radio Radio“. At the conclusion of “Radio Radio“, a song known for its impromptu rebellion way back on a SNL performance, Elvis changed to a black top hat and introduced the largest “Attraction” on the stage, a twelve foot, multi-colored spinning wheel of songs. Elvis’ spinning song wheel first made its debut 25 years ago on his tour bringing a “request only" concert to the stage way before its time. Audience members were hand picked by Elvis and his assistant to spin the wheel and the band performed each song with utmost precision, while only Elvis’ guitar changed to accommodate each song. The selected audience members danced on stage during their song(s), with one memorable “wheel spinner”, a stunning beauty named “Bjork” daring to enter the Go-Go booth up on the stage during the song performed from her spin of the wheel. She almost seemed planted to perform in the Go-Go booth as her hips swayed to the beat of the music while her long hair waved about the cage, but she was just an adoring fan like the rest of us. The wheel produced some songs that probably wouldn’t make it to a regular Elvis show such as “Monkey to Man“, “God Give Me Strength“, “I Want You” and “Earthbound” but the band was committed to each of the songs selected with just a little fudging along the way. Somehow the one song which I wanted to hear the most, “Clubland” from the 1981 album, "Trust", hit the mark on a slow pitched wheel spin and the song immediately commenced with the brilliant piano work by the incredible Steve Naive. Among the hits performed from the song wheel spins were “Watching The Detectives” and “Everyday I Write the Book“, “Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes” and “Tear Off Your own Head ( It’s The Doll Revolution)”. Elvis brought out Susanna Hoffs, Vicki and Debbie Peterson from The Bangles to perform the vocals on “Doll Revolution” much like they did at The Beverly Theater show in 1986. Susanna Hoffs must have been in a time machine for the last 25 years because she looks much as she did during her Walk Like An Egyptian Days. Other surprises included several covers such as “Girl” (The Beatles), “Out of Time” (The Stones), “Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood” (The Animals) and a surprise encore of “Purple Rain” (Prince) all performed with unique Elvis interpretations. Another interesting rendition came with a slowed down and almost unrecognizable version of “Pump It Up” with Elvis hitting the ivory keys on his mega famous radio hit.

The four encores were a show within itself. Among the highlights was the song that started it all for Elvis back in 1977, “Alison“. For the encore, Elvis called back one of the audience wheel spinners who was aptly named Alison , in a moment in time she will remember for eternity. In the midst of “Alison“, Elvis switched over to “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and then beautifully finished his song with every member of the audience singing those soft lyrics, “Aaaaalison…..my aim is true, my aim is true…..”, while the chords quietly came to that famous lyrical end. The final encore couldn’t have been more perfect for this night given the times we live in today , “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” simply could not be followed with drummer Pete Thomas pounding the skins, Elvis wailing on the guitar with the all too familiar riff and the audience in complete euphoria. Thirty three years from now wherever I am or "if" I am at all, I can say I was in the audience for that unforgettable Elvis Costello performance at The Wiltern Theatre way back in the Spring of 2011.

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