Spectacle: Elvis Costello with Renée Fleming & Rufus Wainwright @ the Apollo

What an evening! Elvis Costello, Renee Fleming, Rufus Wainwright, Kate McGarrigle, and Bill Frisell on one stage. One of the most magical nights I can remember, a broad mixture of opera and jazz and pop and folk, with interviews and conversations interspersed with the music, and Elvis a smart and merry host.

The crowd was small and they had to fill in the front, so Sarah and I were bumped up into the second row, where we could watch it all play out in fits and starts for TV. (Where you can see it edited neatly together on the Sundance Channel in December.) We didn't even mind leaving Khaleem behind, in Row L of all places; it's nice for once to have a better seat than Khaleem, which is something that never ever happens.

And since it was being recorded for TV, we were treated to more than one performance of "Willie Moore" by Rufus, Elvis, and Kate, and a haunting rendition of "The Scarlet Tide" performed by all. Was anything else repeated? Who can remember, I only got five hours of sleep, preceded by something called "Mucho Nachos" at the Manhattan Diner.

And what can I say? I loved it all. I've long been a fan of the main three, and have seen both Rufus and Renee perform live before, but what a treat to be introduced to McGarrigle and Frisell, as well. Of course the real treasure was being able to see all of these artists up close—casual, relaxed, intimate—in such a gorgeous theater, world-class artists who are at the top of their respective talents and uncompromising in their visions, yet so open and curious and engaged, and truly, genuinely excited to share their love of music—with each other and with the audience. The depth and breadth of knowledge was extraordinary, and it was inspiring to see how many levels they could all connect on simply because they speak this common language. And all you need to do to understand it is to listen. Amazing!

Did I mention the tickets were free?

ELVIS COSTELLO

  • All This Useless Beauty
  • If I Only Had a Brain (with Bill Frisell)

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

  • Memphis Skyline (partial)
  • My Phone's On Vibrate for You
  • L'Absence (Berlioz)

RENÉE FLEMING

  • Vissi d'arte (from Tosca)
  • Answer Me (with Bill Frisell) — My favorite number of the night; so, so lovely, I was brushing away tears. And although I will be crucified for saying it, I do hope she moves back into jazz when she's no longer singing opera full-time. Why would you limit such a voice to one style or genre? I think that would be a crime. One of the reasons I admire her—why she's not only my favorite soprano but one of my favorite singers—is because she takes risks, and never settles. I think that's something to celebrate, not discourage.

ALL

  • In the Pines
  • The Scarlet Tide