Ah, what a treat to see Elvis Costello twice in one summer with two completely different bands. I’m a lucky girl. I didn’t feel all that lucky last night walking a VERY VERY LONG WAY from a remote parking lot to the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery stage. My pathetic toe went AAAH! every time I stepped down on my right foot, making me slow, crippled, and crabby. “This is like the frigging Bataan Death March,” I grumbled, winding through cars and trees and various nature beauty. To be fair, as I walked I was not being systematically disemboweled, raped, beheaded, poked with bayonets, shot, or deprived of food or water. I hope my bitter utterance did not offend any Death March survivors walking near me also on their way to see Elvis. Hell, it was a pretty old crowd, coulda happened. When I saw a guy in a wheelchair wheeling himself up the long hill road to the winery, I shut up.

The winery’s theater is very similar to Marymoor Park where I just saw the Flaming Lips – outdoor, with a flat paved surface to set chairs if required, then a sloping grassy hill behind where people can bring a blanket and a picnic and watch the show. It’s kind of nice, really, especially when the weather is cooperative. It’s a very different vibe than a sweaty dark little club, or a big old vaudeville theater, or a huge arena. I had shelled out the big bucks to get a reserved forest-green plastic seat, so I didn’t have to worry about positioning. I worry about positioning, you know. I am spoiled spoiled spoiled and short short short.

As the opening act The Lovell Sisters began their set, I dragged my way over to the Grossly Overpriced Concert Food area and got a kielbasa and a bag of chips and a lemonade, and watched the stage from a distance. The sisters are just as cute as can be, good musicians, and were sincerely delighted to be playing for the assembled. But their sweet and very competent version of bluegrass music did not perk up my ears. I believe they are coming more from a continuing-the-tradition perspective rather than trying to change the genre, which is fine and there is certainly a place for that. But I always do look for the little something extra in any performance, something that shows me the musicians were able to mine the unique that is in them. I did not hear it from The Lovell Sisters, but it matters not. Everyone was happy, the wine was flowing, and a latte was only a mere SIX BUCKS. I see Evan from the Boss Martians make his way to his seat, so I do too. I do what rock stars do, as a rule.

After a not-too-long wait, Elvis Costello and The Sugarcanes took the stage. This particular version of Elvis is another revisit to country music, and in support of his album “Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane,” which is selling quite well, I hear. This time, Elvis and his tight Nashville-Cat sidemen construct a more Carter Family feel than the lush Music City production of “Almost Blue.” The arrangements are simple and straightforward, with signature wordplay-laden Costello lyrics. “Sulphur to Sugarcane” is a cute highlight of the record, reciting a list of interesting qualities of “ladies” across the country. When you have a career that is as long and varied and well-respected as Costello’s, you definitely can pull off rhyming “Poughkeepsie” with “tipsy.”

The between-song stories Costello tells this time are particularly amusing. He’s smart and knows a thing about comedic timing, too. We hear about the hideous countenance of Hans Christian Andersen, a comparison between bellowers Jenny Lind and Celine Dion, and a very awkward moment where June Carter demanded Costello make up some lyrics on the spot for a UK live performance. The latter story goes seamlessly into a version of “Hidden Shame,” a song Costello wrote for Johnny Cash, who ended up recording it in 1989.

So the show is going along just fine and I would like to take some representative photographs, because that is also what I do: photograph rock stars. It becomes clear immediately that tonight’s version of The Ruiner, that man or woman who craps on my concert experiences, is this guy sitting two rows ahead of me:

He CANNOT STOP MOVING BACK AND FORTH. FOR THE WHOLE SHOW, and I mean WHOLE DAMN SHOW. I try to focus and take a shot, he moves his head into the frame, chatting ENDLESSLY with his black-rooted pigtailed blonde girly pal. I move to the other side, he moves his head in front of me. I move back the other way, he’s got MORE TO SAY TO THE GIRLY. The ENTIRE TIME. Good god. I swore a lot and deleted a whole lot of BACK OF DUDE’S HEAD photos. Perhaps he has epilepsy or cerebral stupidity or muscular THWARTERY. Bah. Well, I did the best I could anyway, because I do that in addition to doing what rock stars do, and photographing rock stars:

At the very end of the show, I determine not to leave without a video or two, despite the compromised view, my complaining toe, and a bleaching effect on poor Elvis’ face, probably easily corrected if I knew anything about white balance and technical things like that. As I switch on the vid, I am extra smiley to hear that I am recording a version of the Rolling Stones’ “Happy,” and here you go:

After that, I catch what is perhaps Costello’s best-known song, from his debut album back around World War I or so, the lovely and talented “Alison.”

Our purple-fedoraed friend and his group retire for the night, and the crowd files out, chatting about songs and previous Elvis shows from days gone by. A young high school security guy who is helping post-show road crossing activities strikes up a conversation with me, all friendly and happy like a little brown-eyed bunny. He smiles and asks how I liked the music tonight, and I reply that I liked it just fine, just fine indeed. He gave me the OK to cross, and did not at all beat me with a rifle butt on my hobbling march back to the car.

The final show of my Summer of Loud ’09 is done. Thanks, El, as always.