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Gonzo Report: Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Los Straitjackets use music for memory at the Shell

Do people really need to record with their phone up to remember a night like this?

Don’t take a picture; it’ll last longer.
Don’t take a picture; it’ll last longer.

MTV originated in 1981 and became available on the west coast a year later. For me, the acts that come to mind from those days are Billy Idol, Adam Ant, The Cars, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, and of course, Elvis Costello. Born Declan Patrick MacManus on August 25, 1954 (Happy Birthday, Elvis), he began his career playing pubs in London in the early 1970s. Now, Costello is on tour, celebrating the release of his new album titled A Boy Named If along with his band the Imposters, with whom he’s been playing for the last twenty years. On August 31, 2022, they shared the bill with Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets at the Shell — the first time since 1989 that Elvis and Nick have toured together. (They first met in a pub near the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1972.) Elvis Costello was named an officer the Order of the British Empire in 2019 for his contributions to music. No word yet on Mr. Lowe.

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I clocked in at 7:22 pm and was immediately ushered to my table seat. A light bay breeze took the edge off of a hot balmy San Diego day as Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets tore into their set. Los Straitjackets wore Lucha Libre masks; Nick’s chief adornment was his full head of white hair. They played with a rockabilly sound. Nick stepped off the stage for a bit after the song “Tokyo Bay,” and as soon as he did, Los Straitjackets slid into their own surf song: “Kawanga.” As they played, they pushed toward the crowd in an aggressive manner; I couldn’t tell if they wanted to ride waves or fly off the top rope to finish us off. They then backed off a bit and closed out their mini set with something sweeter, if still surfy: “Close to Champaign.” Nick returned to the stage afterwards, and together, they played a cool honky-tonk version of “Cruel to Be Kind” before finishing off the set with “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock’n’Roll).” The song’s sound and point of view put me in mind of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” and that got me thinking of Uma Thurman dancing with John Travolta at Jackrabbit Slim’s in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. There’s nothing like music for memory.

Intermission is a time for libation. I was seated just thirty feet away from a popup bar with a small line. The prices were a long way from the 1972 Cavern Club, but not overly painful: $11 for a glass of wine, $13 for beer, and $13 for cocktails.

It’s common for the sound system to play music during concert intermissions. But it’s rare for it to play something from the actual bands doing the performing. So I was surprised to hear “Surrender to The Rhythm” — a song from Elvis Costello’s first band, Rusty — blaring from the speakers even as he walked onto the stage with The Imposters. Costello, Steve Nieve (keyboards), Pete Thomas (drums), Davey Faragher (bass/backing vocals), and Charlie Sexton (guitar, formerly for Bob Dylan) marched on stage in single file, focused and ready to work. Elvis’s attire was not what I expected. He came out looking more like a longshoreman than a troubadour: gray shirt with black stripes, heavy gray jacket, and jeans. But I guess it was fitting, seeing as how the Shell is not too far from the shipyards.

The band started in with an up-tempo, almost frenetic version of “Accidents Will Happen,” a Costello song from 1979. He may have been touring behind his new work, but he wasn’t going to skimp on the classics. I caught a total of five songs from the new album scattered throughout the set: “Farewell Ok,” “Mistook Me for a Friend,” “The Man You Love to Hate,” “Magnificent Hurt,” and “Penelope Halfpenny.” The sound for the new stuff seemed blended from various periods in his career, a little bit jazz, a little bit rock and roll. As the band played a reggae-style version of “Watching the Detectives,” I did some watching of my own: a girl was shimmering outside the venue in the light of the crescent moon. A moment of serene respite in the midst of a show otherwise full of energy and pace — you have to hurry if you’re Elvis Costello and you’re going to get through all your hits before the 10 pm noise ordinance shuts you down. The crowd was not disappointed; they got classics like “Veronica,” “Pump it Up,” and “Radio, Radio.” The last song of the evening was smooth jazzy version of “Alison;” Costello was singing into a gold star-topped microphone reminiscent of the Roaring ‘20s. After the band finished, Elvis put on his vintage red fedora and gave us one last doff of the cap before walking off stage.

I’d like to give Kristen Turner with the San Diego Symphony a special thank you for setting me up with a table and providing me the information needed for the night of the concert. I’d also like to send a message to people who stand with their phones in the air: snapping pictures is fine, but holding your phone up in the air the whole time creates an obstruction. It’s annoying, and it keeps others from enjoying the show. I got to see Elvis’s receding hairline and the mid-life pounds he’s put on through someone else’s phone. I guess it’s the world we live in, but do people really need to record to remember a night like this? Like I said, there’s nothing like music for memory.

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Don’t take a picture; it’ll last longer.
Don’t take a picture; it’ll last longer.

MTV originated in 1981 and became available on the west coast a year later. For me, the acts that come to mind from those days are Billy Idol, Adam Ant, The Cars, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, and of course, Elvis Costello. Born Declan Patrick MacManus on August 25, 1954 (Happy Birthday, Elvis), he began his career playing pubs in London in the early 1970s. Now, Costello is on tour, celebrating the release of his new album titled A Boy Named If along with his band the Imposters, with whom he’s been playing for the last twenty years. On August 31, 2022, they shared the bill with Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets at the Shell — the first time since 1989 that Elvis and Nick have toured together. (They first met in a pub near the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1972.) Elvis Costello was named an officer the Order of the British Empire in 2019 for his contributions to music. No word yet on Mr. Lowe.

Sponsored
Sponsored

I clocked in at 7:22 pm and was immediately ushered to my table seat. A light bay breeze took the edge off of a hot balmy San Diego day as Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets tore into their set. Los Straitjackets wore Lucha Libre masks; Nick’s chief adornment was his full head of white hair. They played with a rockabilly sound. Nick stepped off the stage for a bit after the song “Tokyo Bay,” and as soon as he did, Los Straitjackets slid into their own surf song: “Kawanga.” As they played, they pushed toward the crowd in an aggressive manner; I couldn’t tell if they wanted to ride waves or fly off the top rope to finish us off. They then backed off a bit and closed out their mini set with something sweeter, if still surfy: “Close to Champaign.” Nick returned to the stage afterwards, and together, they played a cool honky-tonk version of “Cruel to Be Kind” before finishing off the set with “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock’n’Roll).” The song’s sound and point of view put me in mind of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” and that got me thinking of Uma Thurman dancing with John Travolta at Jackrabbit Slim’s in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. There’s nothing like music for memory.

Intermission is a time for libation. I was seated just thirty feet away from a popup bar with a small line. The prices were a long way from the 1972 Cavern Club, but not overly painful: $11 for a glass of wine, $13 for beer, and $13 for cocktails.

It’s common for the sound system to play music during concert intermissions. But it’s rare for it to play something from the actual bands doing the performing. So I was surprised to hear “Surrender to The Rhythm” — a song from Elvis Costello’s first band, Rusty — blaring from the speakers even as he walked onto the stage with The Imposters. Costello, Steve Nieve (keyboards), Pete Thomas (drums), Davey Faragher (bass/backing vocals), and Charlie Sexton (guitar, formerly for Bob Dylan) marched on stage in single file, focused and ready to work. Elvis’s attire was not what I expected. He came out looking more like a longshoreman than a troubadour: gray shirt with black stripes, heavy gray jacket, and jeans. But I guess it was fitting, seeing as how the Shell is not too far from the shipyards.

The band started in with an up-tempo, almost frenetic version of “Accidents Will Happen,” a Costello song from 1979. He may have been touring behind his new work, but he wasn’t going to skimp on the classics. I caught a total of five songs from the new album scattered throughout the set: “Farewell Ok,” “Mistook Me for a Friend,” “The Man You Love to Hate,” “Magnificent Hurt,” and “Penelope Halfpenny.” The sound for the new stuff seemed blended from various periods in his career, a little bit jazz, a little bit rock and roll. As the band played a reggae-style version of “Watching the Detectives,” I did some watching of my own: a girl was shimmering outside the venue in the light of the crescent moon. A moment of serene respite in the midst of a show otherwise full of energy and pace — you have to hurry if you’re Elvis Costello and you’re going to get through all your hits before the 10 pm noise ordinance shuts you down. The crowd was not disappointed; they got classics like “Veronica,” “Pump it Up,” and “Radio, Radio.” The last song of the evening was smooth jazzy version of “Alison;” Costello was singing into a gold star-topped microphone reminiscent of the Roaring ‘20s. After the band finished, Elvis put on his vintage red fedora and gave us one last doff of the cap before walking off stage.

I’d like to give Kristen Turner with the San Diego Symphony a special thank you for setting me up with a table and providing me the information needed for the night of the concert. I’d also like to send a message to people who stand with their phones in the air: snapping pictures is fine, but holding your phone up in the air the whole time creates an obstruction. It’s annoying, and it keeps others from enjoying the show. I got to see Elvis’s receding hairline and the mid-life pounds he’s put on through someone else’s phone. I guess it’s the world we live in, but do people really need to record to remember a night like this? Like I said, there’s nothing like music for memory.

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