Evanston RoundTable, Aug. 6, 2022
Headliner Elvis Costello, the venerable British rocker, played an inspired selection of classics and new material at last night’s Out of Space concert at Canal Shores golf course.
Opening with Accidents Will Happen and Green Shirt, both from his 1979 album Armed Forces, Costello then launched into a bevy of newer material before closing out the 90-minute program with rousing versions of two of his most beloved hits, Pump It Up from 1978’s This Year’s Model album and (What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (also from Armed Forces); and a beautiful, unadorned version of his classic ballad Alison from the 1977 album My Aim Is True.
A sold-out crowd of 5,000 loved it. A highly unscientific and informal sample of attendees turned up about equal numbers of Elvis diehards (“I’ve been seeing him since the 1980s” was a common refrain) and Out of Space fans.
Among the latter were James Blesius, who said flat out, “This venue is great.” He recalled seeing the classic rocker Patti Smith at Out of Space last year. “It was terrific, till the rains came and washed out her set.”
The weather was not a factor Friday night – it couldn’t have been lovelier – in the second of a long weekend of shows, which began with Jenny Lewis Thursday and includes singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams tonight and Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy tomorrow night. The venue switches to Temperance Beer Co., 2000 Dempster St., for a long weekend of shows Sept. 1-4 that feature Houndmouth, Car Seat Headrest, Neko Case and Steel Pulse. Information on the shows is available here.
Friday night’s weather, opening acts Nicole Atkins and Nick Lowe; and headliner Costello could be described in one word: mellow. The crowd were so congenial that Evanston Police officer Brian Rust hazarded the comment, “So far so good,” when asked about security. “Don’t want to jinx it,” he added, laughing nervously. Actually, he seemed pretty relaxed himself, smiling at the predominantly older crowd seated in droves in beach chairs arrayed across the lawn of the golf course.
Michael Musacchio, a neurosurgeon at Skokie Hospital (who, coincidentally, operated on me in March: I assured him everything’s fine) said he saw Indigo Girls at Out of Space. “They were fantastic, but it doesn’t matter who’s here, it’s always good.” Musacchio introduced me to John Powers, a past president of Canal Shores, who also saw Indigo Girls. “Cake was good,” Powers said, referring to the rock and country & western group from California, adding, “I like it here because it’s walking distance from my house.”
Nancy and Dave O’Neill from Winnetka raved about the venue. “It’s a beautiful event, terrifically well-organized, from check-in to the food trucks and beer tents and the well-behaved fans.”
Steve Ross, sitting further back, is another Out of Space fan. (Full disclosure: he’s my next-door neighbor in northwest Evanston.) Ross said he saw Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in a solo show three years ago. “I love the setting,” he said, adding he’s a fanatic Costello fan of many decades.
Another fan of the venue, Gretchen Constantine, said, “I’m loving it. It’s like a mini-Ravinia.” She said she’s also “a big Elvis Costello fan, going back to the 1980s.”
Atkins’ short opening set of what might be termed rock with a tinge of country was well-received (she joined Costello for two numbers mid-set), as was Lowe’s 40-minute set that included his hit Cruel to Be Kind. He did not sing his classic song, (What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, understandably ceding it to headliner Costello, who made the song famous.
The concert venue SPACE has been operating these Out of Space concerts for five years. This was my first excursion there, but it won’t be my last. Costello’s great backup band The Imposters and his signature songs with their great hooks, unusual melodies and tight arrangements, all sung in his raspy but highly agile voice (which often sounds like Springsteen) made for a stellar and fan-favorite attraction.
The lyrics of What’s So Funny might seem dark, and certainly apply to 2022 as much as they did to the events of 1974 when Lowe recorded the song (“As I walk through this wicked world, searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity, I ask myself, is all hope lost? Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?…”) but last night seemed anything but miserable and dark, even when the sun went down at 8:10 p.m. as Costello launched into his set and the mellow crowd adored it.