Live Review: Elvis Costello in the park …

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 6:44 am August 30, 2021

by Tim McMahan,

Elvis Costello at Memorial Park, Aug. 28, 2021.

Oh, what a lovely evening Saturday night for the Elvis Costello concert at Memorial Park, apparently brought to us by Susie Buffett as the “anonymous donor” who bankrolled the whole shebang.

While I didn’t arrive until 8:45 (and after Elvis began), I heard more than enough of the concert from my back yard just four or five blocks from the park — a cover band playing “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” the boom-boom-boom of Wyclef Jean’s rhythm section, fading in and out with the southeast wind.

When I walked over the rise to the park’s bowl and the glowing stage along Dodge St., I was pleasantly surprised at how un-packed it was. Those who stayed away for fear of The Delta Variant needn’t worried. The breeze was so stiff and the people so spread out there was little chance of this becoming a super spreader event (sad how that the term has become part of our vocabulary).

As had been previously announced, The Attractions’ synth/keyboard player, Steve Nieve, was unable to get in-country for whatever reason and was replaced by Charlie Sexton on guitar. This personnel change would have an obvious effect on the evening’s performance, as much of Costello’s best songs are keyboard-dense (to say the least). So what we got instead was Elvis Costello and the Layabouts, a guitar-driven combo, and it wasn’t so bad.

Few artists depend more on their voice and their lyrics to carry their songs as EC. And for me, few things stand out as much on his recordings as Elvis’ crooning. And you had plenty of that Saturday night, for better or worse.

Look, it would be easy to complain about every little element of the concert without remembering that: 1) it was free, 2) it was held in an municipal park not designed for concerts, 3) most people were there to see the fireworks and had no idea who EC is and could care less that: 1) Elvis was off pitch on about half the songs, 2) the mix was less than stellar, 3) the set list contained a too many wonky country songs.

I’ve never seen Costello live, though I’ve seen a couple of his live performances on TV and didn’t expect much. All I wanted was the hits, which we got, plus some personal favorites — he did “Uncomplicated” off Blood and Chocolate, for example, which is one of my all-timers.

I also wanted some storytelling — having seen Elvis on the chat shows, I knew he could spin quite a yarn. And we got a few of those, though they sounded a bit tread-worn and forced. But what did you expect? Heartfelt confessions while children were running around swinging plastic light sabers and endless groups of pre-teen girls trotted up and down the grass alleyways giggling? Elvis did just enough to get by.

Halfway into the set I walked down to the bottom of the bowl to see how close I could get to the stage and was surprised at the access — unlike any past Memorial Park concert I can remember. I was close enough that I could have hit Sexton with a bottle had I wanted to. The folks surrounding me down there couldn’t have been more chill and into the concert.

The show ended with an extended version of “What’s So Funny…” an appropriate finale considering everything going on in Afghanistan. And then Mayor Stothert did the countdown and we all craned our heads back for 20 minutes and watched the fireworks.

I had a good time, anyway.

Elvis Costello performing at Memorial Park, Aug. 28, 2021.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


And How, Clarence Tilton tonight; Elvis Costello in the Park Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:11 pm August 27, 2021

by Tim McMahan,

Elvis Costello plays Saturday in Memorial Park.

And so, the weekend. 

Two shows on the radar tonight…

Omaha indie ensemble And How headlines a very crowded bill tonight at The Sydney in Benson. The band always puts on a great show and is one of Omaha’s hottest bands on the verge of… something. Joining them is Lawrence (by way of Ashville, NC) four-piece folk-gaze band Blanky, whose latest, No Summertime, was recorded at Lakehouse in Ashbury Park and released last fall. Omaha hip-hop artist Dex Arbor opens at 9 p.m. No price listed for this show but it’s probably around $10. 

Also tonight, Omaha alt-country phenoms Clarence Tilton headlines at Slowdown Jr. with Farewell Transmission and Watson & Co. 8 p.m., $10.

Tomorrow it’s the big Memorial Park concert extravaganza featuring Elvis Costello and Wyclef Jean. Cover band The Firm kicks it off at 6 p.m. followed by Wyclef then Elvis, with fireworks at 10 p.m. In addition, KPAO public television will be showing local band videos between sets on the the big screens. The city recommends wearing masks, even outside.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Little Brazil, Living Conditions, Sean Paul, BFF tonight; who remembers Elvis Costello?…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:41 pm July 2, 2021
Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019. The band plays at The Sydney tonight.

Every week it starts to feel a little more normal around here, though we’re still not where we were before the pandemic when it comes to live music. For the last couple weeks, we’ve had at least one show worth mentioning for the weekend. That’s better than none, but a far cry from the six or seven shows per weekend that used to fill this blog on Fridays.

This weekend’s show is tonight, again at The Sydney in Benson: Omaha indie heroes Little Brazil return to the Sydney stage for the first time since Feb. 7, 2020. Joining them are Omaha screamo band Living Conditions and maybe the city’s best kept secret — Sean Paul. Some may know him from his work with Eric in Outerspace or The Sunks. Paul has been working on a solo album, and from what I’ve heard it’s going to be a scorcher.

The show is $10 and starts at 10 p.m. and is part of July’s Benson First Friday (#BFF). So get to Benson early tonight and soak in all the cool art at the local businesses, then slip on down to The Sydney at 10 for what promises to be a red hot show.

That’s the only gig I see going on this 4th of July weekend. If you know something I missed, put it in the comments section.

. ) ) ) .

If you were anywhere near social media yesterday you heard the news that Elvis Costello will be headlining this year’s Memorial Park Concert Aug. 28. Wyclef Jean is the opener.

For a certain segment of the population (of which I am one) this is unbelievable news. I grew up listening to Elvis Costello, and his debut album is one of my all-time favorites. The fact that this singular talent is playing for free in Memorial Park — a concert that historically has featured over-the-hill county-fair freedom rock acts — is nothing less than a miracle.

But I have to wonder how well it’ll draw. Yes, you and I and our friends all know and love EC, but how well is he known outside of our circles? I bet if you did a man-on-the-street survey and asked 10 random strangers shopping right now at Village Point to name an Elvis Costello song, 9 out of 10 wouldn’t answer. Sure, they’ve heard of Elvis Costello, but do they know his music? It certainly has never been played on local radio, and EC isn’t exactly a television staple these days.

In fact, to be honest, the last EC album that I really dug was Blood and Chocolate, which came out in 1986 — that’s 35 years ago. There’s a couple generations who likely don’t know who EC is. No doubt Elvis will cram his set with the hits from his first few releases (Though wouldn’t it be funny if he did a set consisting of songs from his last six albums? What’s that? No, it wouldn’t?).

Regardless of who’s playing, this will be a crazy event if only because it will be yet another moment that symbolically marks the end of the pandemic.

Have a great weekend!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Mark Kozelek; Elvis Costello, Larkin Poe tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:09 pm October 4, 2016

Mark Kozelek at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 3, 2016.

Mark Kozelek at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 3, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Mark Kozelek and his keyboard player, Ben, walked onto the Slowdown Jr. stage a little after 9 last night and didn’t leave for two and a half hours. In that time, they ran through a set list of Sun Kil Moon songs that included a few off Benji (“Richard Ramirez…” “Micheline” and “Dogs”), Universal Themes (“The Possum,” “This Is My First Day…”) and the just-released Jesu/Sun Kil Moon album (“Fragile,” “Exodus”) as well as a few new ones (“He’s Bad,” a song about Michael Jackson with the chorus “He’s Bad / And he’s dead / And I’m glad“), a cover of “Send in the Clowns” and a few I didn’t recognize, including a set intro and a set outro wherein Kozelek talked about never having been to Omaha before, his lunch at The Blatt (where his waiter called him “Boss” repeatedly), and seeing Conor Oberst play at The Forum when he was this tall (and who Kozelek will be opening for in a one-off show in a few weeks).

Kozelek only played guitar on a couple songs (including “Richard Ramirez…”).Most of the time he stood on the front of the stage with his microphone or sat next to Ben, directing the beat with his free hand in a solemn wave. At times, especially on new songs, he referred to lyrics written in a binder. This was the first of three shows with this new keyboard player and Kozelek warned there would be some rough edges, and there were, but they only added to the charm of the set.

I’ve read he can be nasty to his audience, but he was nothing but kind and funny last night, laughing often and mostly at himself. The laughter countered the hard-reality lyrics that dealt with death and murder and getting older and memories of loved ones gone… depressing lyrics mostly sung but sometimes spoken as keyboardist Ben tickled his Roland and controlled a thick, dark beat.

I think Benji is Kozelek’s masterpiece, and he acknowledged that the album is what most new audiences know him from, saying Red House Painters (his first band) was so long ago. The Benji songs, which came out in 2014, indeed stood out next to the newer material that at times seemed like stream-of-conscious poetry. The moments when Kozelek used that angelic voice of his and reached beyond his slow, guttural, spoken delivery were when he raised the night to the next level.

There’s not much more to say. The crowd of around 60 were seated at tables throughout the club and a few yards away from the stage. Kozelek asked people to come closer all night, and eventually they scooched their chairs forward toward the stage. It was a quiet, intimate performance that kept the audience rapt and silent.

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Another master story-teller songwriter performs tonight, this time at the Holland Performing Arts Center. It’s a solo performance by Elvis Costello. Based on the set list from Saturday’s show at Town Hall in NYC (which you can read here) this could be a greatest hits collection — played with piano and guitar — that spans to his first album. Opening is Larkin Poe, who I wrote about yesterday. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show range from $46 to $126.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The post-Thanksgiving blues; Elvis Costello headed to Lincoln; new Sam Martin Dec. 9, RSC finds…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:51 pm December 1, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

It looks to be monumentally quiet gig-wise this week. In fact, there’s virtually nothing on my radar the entire week. Post-holiday doldrums? I guess.

The only notable gig news came in a press release stating that Elvis Costello is booked for the Rococo in Lincoln March 3. Tix on sale Thursday at noon starting at $47.

Speaking of Lincoln gigs, Cursive announced it’s added a show at Vega in Lincoln March 22, the day after their gig at The Waiting Room.

Going through the ol’ in-box…

Capgun Coup frontman Sam Martin, last seen doped out in Nik Fackler’s film Sick Birds Die Easy, has a new album out a week from Tuesday, Dec. 9, on Omaha’s own Make Believe Recordings called A Notion in an Ocean. The record features a slew of guests, including Greg Elsasser, Sean Pratt, Noah Kohl, Dereck Higgins, Jesse Mckelvey and Todd Fink. Check out the video for the first single, “Bye Bye,” below.

How’d you do at Record Store Day Friday? I was surprised to find a lot of inventory still available at Homer’s and Drastic Plastic when I dropped in on both stores that afternoon. My only official RSD purchase was the American Hustle soundtrack. Other than that, I bought a copy of Joy Division’s Preston 28 February 1980 live album, out on Drastic Plastic Records (massive 200 gram vinyl), and scored used copies of Peter Gabriel’s debut album and Harry Nilsson’s The Point at Almost Music. Not bad…

BTW, those Guardians of the Galaxy cassettes are now going for more than $50 on ebay. More evidence that cassettes are back?

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.