Browsing for Music with Elvis Costello

He shook his head, lost in the moment. _Our_ moment.

“Ah, Ray Charles—it doesn’t get any better, does it?”

I looked up from a crouch to see who was offering unsolicited opinions on my holiday shopping, assuming I would give a friendly nod and move on down the aisle, when lo and behold…

Elvis Costello wasn’t watching the detectives. He was watching me peruse the music DVD selections at the Union Square Virgin Records, and he approved of my selection.

“He’s one of my mom’s favorites,” I said, acting nonchalant while wondering if Costello wears the black-on-black suit and tie every time he leaves the house, even to go to the gym or to get coffee and the Sunday _Times._

He glanced at _Ray Charles: Live in Brazil_ and nodded. “That’s a good one,” he said.

Sensing our brief time together was about to end, I tried to come up with a topic of conversation that could prolong the relationship. And then, just under the wire, it hit me. “I was down in New Orleans this year,” I said.

Instant rapport!

Costello looked at me through his Roy Orbison glasses and, with all the seriousness an angry young man from way back could muster, replied, “Wasn’t Bruce incredible?”

“It might be the best show I’ve ever seen,” I said, “and you guys were great, too.”

The thumbnail is this: In 2006, Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band headlined the first post-Katrina Jazz Fest. It was as moving and religious an experience as anything I’d ever been a part of. And prior to Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Big Easy mainstay Allen Toussaint had played a set, mostly songs from their collaboration _The River in Reverse._

“Thanks,” Costello said. “That was just…Bruce was amazing…New Orleans.…” He shook his head, lost in the moment. _Our_ moment. Then he laughed and said, “I didn’t know that was out already.” He pointed to the concert DVD version of _The River in Reverse._ I thought about reaching down and buying one. Fortunately, Costello was just pointing out the coincidence and not asking me to prove my love.

“Have you ever seen Allen over at Joe’s Pub?”

“No,” I answered, adding (honestly), “I saw he was playing there last month, but it was sold out.”

“Allen plays there a lot,” Costello said. "Next time he’s in town, come check him out. Maybe I’ll see you there.”

“Cool,” I replied. I didn’t want to be a pest, so I pretended I was still shopping. A minute later, I looked around.

Elvis had left the DVD section of Virgin Records.


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