Red Dirt Report: Keaton Bell: October 14th 2016
I know we’re only a few weeks away from Election Day, but can you imagine anything better than having Elvis Costello as our president? The 62-year old Englishman has already proven himself as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time, as evidenced by his nearly two-hour performance at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center on Monday night. So who's to say he wouldn't be just as good at running our country?
He’s already laid out a pretty solid political platform with his music: “Make America Great Again” pales in comparison to “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding?”
Over the course of his 40-year career, Costello has established himself as the original King of Cool. His lyrical subjects are broad and his genre ever-changing, with one critic going so far as to describe him as a “pop encyclopedia.” Which makes sense for a guy who throughout his career seems to have done it all, from having his first three albums appear on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time to making a cameo appearance in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
It’d be hard to find an opening act who does justice to a legend like Costello, but Larkin Poe managed to impress even with that baggage. Fronted by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, the Atlanta-based roots rock band ooze both pure talent and genuine artistry. With both girls decked out in black leather and ripped denim, they looked and sounded like a grittier-sounding Heart with some Janis Joplin thrown in.
Rebecca’s gravel-coated vocals were beautifully impressive, breathing new life into blues standards like “Black Betty” and winning over the crowd with the soulful “When God Closes a Door.” But while the set as a whole was on point, nothing could’ve prepared me for their rock-infused cover of Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”
As a song notable for its somber, slow-burning melody, Larkin Poe’s revved-up cover had me on the edge of my seat listening to Rebecca’s whiskey-soaked vocal acrobatics. It was so good that you’d think we were in the middle of a grungy dive bar watching the sisters tear up the stage instead of an elegant theatre in downtown Oklahoma City.
In between sets, Costello had a montage of still photos and music videos playing on a giant mock TV screen set at center-stage. Along with a few guitars set on display and some various signage to go with the stage design, it was a relatively stripped-down aesthetic for the solo tour. ?And when he finally took the stage, he was just as energetic, soulful, and wacky as the crowd always hoped he’d be. Opening with “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” Costello’s set covered his 40-year career with aplomb, touching on all of his classics while introducing some deeper cuts into the mix.
I could write all day about the beautiful music he unleashed onto the crowd. I cheered when he launched into “Accidents Will Happen” and almost cried when I heard those opening chords from “Alison,” which Costello sang off-mic during a delightfully tender moment. “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding?” ended the night on a high note during his third encore, but his fiery performance of “Blame It On Cain” with the girls of Larkin Poe was also a definite standout.
But while the music was obviously fantastic, the stories and wisecracks in between songs left just as big of an impression. We’ve always know how talented Costello is as a performer, but the set Monday night also displayed just how much of a knack he has for comedy and storytelling.
The audience was buckling over while Costello talked about how “View From The Edge of Town” was inspired by his infatuation with a cab-driver on a drive to Mexico. He mocked the venue of the evening, telling the crowd to always fight for your dreams because one day “You might be able to play at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center!” He even name-checked The Voice, mentioning that the reality singing competition has only proven that “pop music is a blood sport.”
But when you weren’t laughing, you were simply in awe of the multi-faceted artist in front of you. Hearing Costello talk so passionately about collaborating with Chet Baker and Wanda Jackson, who was in attendance, was enough to make you teary-eyed. We’re so used to placing our musical legends on a pedestal that we always forget they were just kids with nothing more than a dream and a guitar. But by combining humor and heart for an unforgettable evening, we got the chance to see Elvis Costello the person as well as the icon.