I. Death, and Life

It started to seem like every few days, somebody else had died.

This could make for a strange counterpoint to the celebration of a life that formed the core of the show. There was no new record, and hadn’t been for years – there may never be again, but more on that in a minute – so Elvis Costello’s “Detour,” if it was promoting anything, was promoting his autobiography: the merch table shilled vinyl reissues of Punch The Clock and This Year’s Model, along with the obligatory t-shirt and miscellaneous bric-a-brac, but most patrons plunked down forty or thirty bucks for a copy of Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, signed or unsigned; meanwhile, many of the stories that made up the show itself, couched as introductions to songs beloved and obscure, were drawn from the book’s pages, with the jokes and more importantly the discursive narrative style preserved. The set mirrored the book – it was arguably more linear in shape – in that it was structured as a loose amble through Costello’s life: at the top of the night we would hear very early songs, often quieter numbers dating back to before My Aim Is True; as the set unspooled and things got a little rowdier, we would be introduced to Costello’s family members, his parents and grandparents as well as his wife and kids, or we’d learn about past collaborators and co-workers, get glimpses into a life in show business, and maybe even be allowed a peek into the workshop as we were treated to worksinprogress from a forthcoming musical called A Face In The Crowd. This, we had to conclude, was a life well-lived, still in the process of being lived well. And yet a certain cloud of mortality hung over the proceedings.

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