While it might seem odd to use a line taken from Public Enemy’s anthemic 1990 rap, “Fight The Power” in a post about Elvis Costello’s decision to cancel his shows in Israel, it so perfectly encapsulates how I feel that really, I had no better alternative. Here’s the thrust of Costello’s namby pamby decision to welch:
…there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent… I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security… I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation…
Elvis Costello typifies the sort of 3rd rate has been artist who would deign to grace us here in Israel with his presence because of the large audiences and inflated ticket prices that he can still command in a market that seems to have no shortage of bad taste and disposable income. Twenty years ago, Costello was already 10 years past his prime – if he ever had one to begin with.
Marketed as a Punk or New Wave artist, Costello was in fact neither. His music wasn’t edgy and his lyrics were about as dangerous as an angry chihuahua. It’s no accident that his first backing band was a country/soft rock group named “Clover” who later backed the insipid Huey Lewis as “The News.” His first album’s biggest hit, released in 1977, and one of his most enduring songs, was a cheesy ballad titled “Alison” – keep in mind, this was at the height of his “punk” period.
The peak of his commercial success was in 1979 when he released “Armed Forces” with its hit single “Oliver’s Army.” Costello admitted that the piano hook in that song was borrowed from Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” Oooh. Abba! Piano! Edgy! Commercial success in the US was severely hindered however, after he called Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant nigger.” Costello later apologized at a press conference and said he was drunk at the time and was merely trying to annoy the people he was with. Nice.
Since then he worked on a mishmash of projects spanning a number of unrelated genres. The best thing he ever did, ever, was produce the Pogues first album “Run, Sodomy and the Lash” in 1985-and the only reason he did that was because he was boning (and eventually had a 16 year marriage with) Pogues bassist Cait O’Riordan. Otherwise it was all collaborations with Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach and a bunch of mostly washed up has beens. In 2003 he married Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall, who has yet to cancel her concerts in Israel scheduled for September.
Booking artists of his low caliber in Israel is always going to be dangerous because they will invariably get a lot more publicity for canceling their gig than they ever will for their actual, you know, work. Never mind that the reasoning is totally vacuous… Hey, remember Costello’s most recent album, “The Delivery Man” released in 2004? A blues, country and folk thing hailed by many critics as his best work yet? Yeah. Me neither.
Was this a victory for the extreme leftists of the BDS movement? Has this advanced the cause of the Palestinian people and peace in the middle east by one iota? Or was this a pathetic attempt by a washed out rake to maintain some tiny measure of the relevance and edge that he never had to begin with? Uhm… yeah. Old man Costello canceled. Boo fucking hoo. Like I ever gave a shit.