My wife and I saw Elvis Costello on Saturday night, down in the Chautauqua Institution. He, along with his percussion-less band The Sugarcanes, was riveting. The country & western bent of his unfortunately titled Sweet, Profane & Sugarcane was the order of the day, and the arrangements were worthy of a Grand Ole Opry showcase. Even when the mustachioed, purple-hatted Costello dipped into his back catalog, the mix of mandolin, fiddle, dobro, guitar and accordion felt natural (“Mystery Dance,” “Blame It On Cain” and “Indoor Fireworks” being highlights for me). And a bluegrassed-up rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” was surprisingly effective. Costello’s records aren’t quite what they used to be, but at 55 years old, he’s as endearing and talented a performer as ever.
Oh, and a memo to anybody that wants to stop for a drink at the Chautauqua Institution before a concert – you are Beezlebub himself. We sat down at a place called The Season Ticket, asked for a wine list and were treated like we had propositioned the waitress for sex. “Institution rules” state that you can’t buy an alcoholic beverage without also ordering food. And the menu listed cosmos, Bloody Marys and the like, but they all had an asterisk next to them. The corresponding asterisk let us know that all of these drinks were wine-based. A wine-based Bloody Mary? That’s just unholy.