Elvis and the ‘Imperial Bedroom’ – Oakdale

Come Saturday night, I got 2 tickets, a date and destination to go to church. OK, not church in the traditional sense. Or….is it?

I find that I don’t see shows as often as I used to. And when I do, the need to see them has changed since I was a wee lil’ Rock and Roller. When I see a show now, it is generally an artist I am obsessed with and I am seeking the same things one does with church:  Acceptance and confirmation.

My higher power comes in brilliant bits of lyric told true and a believable preacher selling/yelling them.

My benediction comes in repeated chorus hooks with words worth sloganeering.

And this Saturday night, I’m going to see Elvis Costello and The Impostors tribute ‘Imperial Bedroom’, one of my faves (of 7 alternate # 1’s) of his catalog. Preach.

‘Imperial Bedroom’ became huge to me…in time. Not initially. I did my due diligence of obsessed fandom and read everything I could about this record before I bought it, living in that ‘New Fan but The Artist Is Later In His Career’ twilight. The Artist is established, but he wasn’t always. You climb up the ladder of his/her career and review the reviews.

Because reviews are funny things, especially when such things still existed. A critic can take exception with praise lauded on a ‘Masterpiece’ and take the opposite tact because it’s:

1) Fun.

2) Necessary.

‘Imperial Bedroom’, with a pretentious Beatle-y vibe (and actual previous Beatle engineer producing Geoff Emerich) , I could see why people lost their mind about this record, pro and con.

Coming after the aggressive and smart ‘Trust’ and the simple and kinda strange Nashville record ‘Almost Blue’, written while producing another on my top shelf of records all time ‘East Side Story’, there was a maturing happening, a start to the type of music he would do later I his career.

I was not ready for it. And keep in mind, I didn’t grab when it came out. It was after a year or two of (pre internet) research that led me to the record. And in that time, I played ‘Get Happy’ every hour of every day, which was full of aggression and sexual failure and cocaine. Just like I like ’em.

This record…confused me. It was the first Elvis Costello record that I did not fall in love with at first listen (the future would bring more of those, but hey…). It was all pomp and No Action. It was all steak but no sizzle. I was kinda heartbroken.

And clearly still dumb.  And determined to be less so. I listened to the record every day like I loved it. It was a discipline. It was healthy, in my own cute obsessive way (Do I use the word ‘obsessive’ too much? Is that something to obsess over?).

It all starts with that album opener ‘Beyond Belief’, which is simply one of his best.  I find myself in times of high stress repeating the lyrics, prayer style. History repeats the old defeats….

‘Shabby Doll’ rocks in a very see sawish, calliope way, but is RULED by Bruce Thomas (the only non Attraction in The Impostors based on a book he wrote…a real shame) and lyric that just rips to shreds the idea of love time spent is tile WELL spent. Being what you might call a whore…it always worked for me before…’

And the title track of the previous record….and another of his greatest concoctions, ‘Almost Blue’. Painful and rewarding. And it’s clearly jazz, so I’m not just making gravy here with the discourse

The standout to me personally is ‘Pidgen English’ which is a brilliant reading on the art and craft of romantic relationships, with lines so keen they cut to the quick. I can’t even describe with enough worship what this song did to my brain, so I’m just gonna leave a link here and suggest you go listen.

Pidgen English  – Imperial Bedroom: https://youtu.be/dldrqhTq7W0



  1. 2nd paragrapgh of this articles exactly how i feel about going to shows now. Traveling, internationally if need be, to see one of my handful of fave artists is necessary to fill my heart with joy and feed my soul. I got my most recent dose with Elvis a couple weeks back here in Boston….brilliant!


  2. Last night’s show in Wallingford, to undersell the experience, was magnificent. I’d managed to catch the Albany show last week and it felt like a dress rehearsal in comparison, largely because the audience was not present until the encores. At the Oakdale the Imperial Bedroom songs received the response they deserve. It’s a cavernous space that Elvis made feel intimate. If ever there was a tour he should document with an official recording or DVD, this is it. Thanks for a great write up of the night!


  3. Have seen EC 12 or 13 times. He is brilliant. After reading the post the only comment I have is that I wish the band were still the Attractions and not the Imposters. Bruce Thomas was an amazing bassist and the current band leaves me wanting without him. So sad they had a falling out and he left them.


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