HOLY SH*T I JUST MET ELVIS COSTELLO.

This was the text message I sent my wife and few other folks yesterday at about 12:13. I’m still sort of accepting the fact that this happened at all.

But first, the night before: Costello played an outstanding show at the Ryman. I dare to say you won’t find a more vital artist of his age than Costello — he still performs with more drive and focus than I see in some folks half his age. The setlist was fantastic: EVERY SONG from his new (very urgent, very immediate) album Momofuku, plus a smattering of gems from the back catalog. The highlights:

  • new tune “Flutter and Wow”, which could very well be among his finest songs ever
  • a jaw-dropping solo rendition of “Alison”
  • a very solid and fluid four-piece take on the slick production of “Everyday I Write the Book”
  • truly amazing vocal performance on “Either Side of the Same Town” from The Delivery Man
  • “Man Out of Time”
  • “Beyond Belief,” “Accidents Will Happen,” and “The Impostor”
  • A totally breakneck-paced version of “Radio, Radio”

My gripe: the crowd. Here’s this amazing, energetic set delivered by an absolute master who’s charming and talkative and generous enough to deliver 4 stellar encores, and the jaded mostly middle-age Nashville audience just sits there like they’re waiting for a Hot Pocket to come out of the microwave. I really hate when the Ryman audience sits through a rock show (you just can’t feel it the same way sitting down), but c’mon Alice — the least you can do is bob your head from time to time. I saw numerous people refuse to stand during the ovations, and about an eighth of the balcony left immediately before or after the first set. There was even a mad dash for the door after the first chorus of the closing rendition of “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Look, I know you’re going to have to wait 5 more minutes to get your Yukon out of the parking lot if you leave with everybody else when the final note has been played, but what’s five minutes in exchange for showing an artist a little respect. I saw the same thing at R.E.M. three years ago, and even at the Tom Waits show a few years back. Bottom line: most of the time, I think Nashville doesn’t even deserve the moniker of “Music City”, because some of the quote-unquote music-lovers in this town are jaded idiots.

But put that aside. Elvis came to Grimey’s on Thursday.

Elvis Costello and the Grimey\'s StaffHonestly, I felt like a 10 year old girl. I was completely nervous in the hours before his arrival, all sweaty and listless, wandering the store aimlessly. When he arrived, we were ushered quickly to the side for group photos (sadly, no solo pic of Elvis and I in a bromancely embrace). During all of this, Elvis was looking around the store, making comments about the inventory. He made a great (and reverential) Prince joke, although I can’t remember what it was about. I felt like he was sort of shopping the whole time he was there, just looking around, connecting all this vast musical knowledge in his head.

We pretty quickly opened the door to let people in, so I stepped aside and helped keep the line in order. I stood about 12 feet or so away from Elvis while he talked to folks, and he was really charming, very witty, and very friendly to everyone. He told Grimey’s regular (and supreme vinyl collector) Joe Crook that he liked his Son House t-shirt, and I thought Joe’s head was going to explode. While there was a little lull in the line, Larry and I jumped over and introduced ourselves, shook his hand, and thanked him for being there, and it was pretry surreal and a little hazy, even in the moment it was happening.

When the line evaporated we closed the doors so Elvis could shop, and he spent a good 30 minutes going through the store, asking for recommendations from Doyle, and making requests. There were a few straggler customers still around, and he made some recommendations to them in passing, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. He bought a box worth of stuff, said goodbye, and then took off in his bus.

So yeah, yesterday was one of the coolest and most surreal days ever.

Sidenote: if you haven’t heard Momofuku yet, go hear it. It benefits from a very immediate, almost tossed off vibe. Great songs played almost effortlessly from a very friendly genius of staggering proportions who wears a nice hat and a scarf in April.

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4 thoughts on “HOLY SH*T I JUST MET ELVIS COSTELLO.”

  1. I almost felt like crying when I read your blog – I didn’t get to meet him!

    My friend and I drove up from Atlanta to see him Wednesday (his show in Atlanta was canceled – stupid tornado!). I didn’t even know he would be hanging around the next day meeting people and I only found out when I went upstairs at the Ryman to get a tshirt and saw the sign. That was when my lungs were yanked out of me (which incidentally happened again during “Alison”).

    Since then I’ve been hoping beyond hope that he will also be signing records here in Atlanta when he reschedules. Sadly, I have my doubts, though…

    You’re so lucky and I’m utterly, completely jealous!

  2. I was waiting in LaGuardia for my flight back to Nashville in 2002 (?) and who should stroll up to the waiting area but Elvis and the Imposters. I was pretty excited but couldn’t think of a thing to say until we landed in Nashville and I saw him at the baggage carousel. My brilliant remark? “Have a good show tonight.” His reply, “Oh, thanks, mate.”

    Nashville crowds suck but that R.E.M. show a few years back was not very exciting. I don’t think that they’ve been the same since Bill Berry left.

  3. Ilove Elvis Costello. BTW: I’m not sure he wrote flutter and wow. I know some other artists do it as well, you should hear April Smith’s version of it…

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