His Aim Is True
Singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. Master/interpreter of pop, punk, country, classical, jazz, opera, R&B, and other genres we’re probably forgetting. Actor, talk-show host, and best-selling author. One of the 100 greatest artists of all time (according to Rolling Stone).
Elvis Costello is all that and more. And on July 23, he brought his many multitalented personas, along with his longtime band, the Imposters, to Shelburne Museum for a rollicking stop on his “Imperial Bedroom and Other Chambers” tour.
So Many Rooms to Explore
Since it hit stores in 1982, Imperial Bedroom has come to be seen as a masterpiece. But Costello isn’t using the 35th anniversary of its release to indulge in nostalgia. “What I want it to do,” he’s said, “is open the door to the other rooms, the other chambers that are mentioned in the playbill. And in those rooms are these other songs”—songs that, to Costello, have some sort of musical or thematic connection to the album.
With a career spanning 40 years, he has a lot of songs to choose from. His restless genre-bending, border-crossing, envelope-pushing instincts have sometimes left critics, and even fans, scratching their heads as he pursued his varied interests and fascinations. But Costello, born Declan McManus, has clearly never been too concerned about labels or limits. By now the principle that unifies all his projects should be obvious to everyone: He does what he wants, and he does it with passion.
That passion was on display at Shelburne, along with the huge range of his song catalog—but so was Costello’s easy charm and storytelling wit. Wearing a bright red hat, he opened the show with “(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” and soon began peppering his setlist with stories from his career and winking takes on current events—revealing some deep secrets along the way. For example, after an energetic version of “Watching the Detectives,” he confided that he used to watch a lot of TV detective shows. He gave Kojak a shout-out and said that his fashion sense was inspired by Columbo. But his all-time favorite came as a bit of a surprise: Murder, She Wrote. For all the stars he’s met and known, seems that Angela Lansbury still gives him goosebumps.
Music That Heals
Costello has lived most of his adult life out loud and in public and, on occasion, he’s used the attention he attracts to support the causes he supports.
Recently, Costello recorded a PSA for Music & Memory, a charity that uses music to help those who suffer from dementia (Alzheimer’s in particular). This issue is a personal one for Costello, whose grandmother and father both suffered from forms of dementia. In fact, he explored his grandmother’s experience in “Veronica,” a song he wrote with Paul McCartney back in 1989.
It makes sense that Costello, someone who’s been delighting his fans with music for so long, supports an initiative that uses songs to bring healing and joy to those who need it most.
Photo credit: @JustinGural