Elvis Costello Releasing New Album(s), Cancels Israel Gigs

Elvis Costello - Pomp and Pout

Elvis Costello has two “new” releases set for in 2010, one is an album of new studio material entitled American Ransom and the other is a greatest hits collection from his time with the Universal Music Group.

Elvis Costello is set to return October 5 with the new album American Ransom, his second studio project for the Concord/Hear Music label and first since last summer’s Americana-flavored, Nashville-recorded album Secret Profane and Sugarcane. Costello will also see the July 13 [June 29] release of Pomp and Pout: The Universal Years — a new retrospective covering the 1998-2008 albums he recorded with Univesal Music labels Island, Lost Highway and Verve Forecast. The title comes from a line in his song “Monkey Man” from the 2004 album The Delivery Man. [Direct Current]

Elvis also recently cancelled two scheduled appearances in Israel, more on that after the jump.


Elvis Costello, one of my all time favorite artists (I own all of his studio releases and have seen live him more times than I can remember) recently cancelled two of his upcoming gigs in Israel. Now this decision caused quite a bit of stir in the media, but I didn’t weigh in on it… until now. If you read his letter of explanation (and I have a few of times), it looks like the reason Elvis bowed out of the gigs it is that he disagrees with the Israeli government’s policies on settlement and their treatment of Palestinian civilians. Now Elvis is entitled to his opinion, but in his wordy missive he claims that he does not want to “stand beneath any banner”. While that is all well and good, it seems to me that by pulling out of the concerts, Elvis actually is choosing to stand beneath a banner, despite what his letter actually says. If he truly didn’t want to take a stand on this issue, he could have done a couple of things:

1) Not accepted the gigs in the first place. To my knowledge, Elvis hadn’t played Israel in the past, so continuing not to play Israel doesn’t really make any political statement, it just seems like the status quo. If Elvis had any misgivings about Israeli government policy, surely they would have been present before he accepted the invitation to play there.

2) Played the gigs. If he played the gigs, and didn’t say anything controversial during his stay, chances are the traditional news media wouldn’t have reported on the story at all. Music publications probably would have picked up his appearance, but it’s unlikely any of those stories would have had a political angle.

3) Cancelled the gigs, but not released a statement. Though ultimately disingenuous, seems like citing a “scheduling conflict” probably wouldn’t have caused too much of a stir in the trades.

The other thing that bothers me about Elvis’ letter is that at its heart, I believe it is hypocritical. An outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s post Katrina response, Elvis has never shied away from performing in the United States so far as I can tell. So, why all of the sudden would he choose to boycott a different country whose government policies he disagrees with? If you want to make a statement, why not write another “Tramp The Dirt Down”, rather than punishing your fans by not letting them see you play. -ed.