Traffic in Los Angeles is a funny thing. When planning an evening out, one always thinks one will somehow magically be handed a reprieve. An 8 o'clock show all the way up in Santa Barbara on a Tuesday night? Sure, why not? That'll take, what, maybe 45 minutes?
Then reality sets in, usually accompanied by whining. Why did we ever leave the house? We've seen Elvis Costello lots of times. Why did we find it necessary to pay to torture ourselves like this? Should we just turn around? Let's just keep going, maybe it will be worth it. It had better be worth it!
Amazingly, last Tuesday at the Arlington Theater, it the trip really was worth it. After sitting in the car for more than two hours we finally arrived with minutes to spare. We flew past the beautifully tiled stand-alone ticket booth and made it into our seats just as the lights went down. But even harried and cross after battling traffic, I couldn't help but be awed by this amazing theater.
Mr. Costello also failed to disappoint. He played solo the entire show, relying just on his voice (sometimes without amplification) and a variety of stringed instruments. The song choices ran the gamut, from some of the first he ever recorded to shiny new creations. He seemed to be enjoying himself too, and made frequent reference to the theater surrounding us.
All of this splendor was originally created as part of the grand Fox West Coast Theater circuit. The main floor and balconies hold 2,000 people. Even the foyer is heavily painted and lit by specially designed lamps, earning the Arlington the distinction of starting life not as a mere movie theater but as a film palace. Today it is also the premier preforming arts venue in Santa Barbara, having been restored and refurbished in the mid-70's.
Bottom line? The show was great, the theater was fabulous, but the next time I drive to Santa Barbara on a Tuesday I'm taking the day off work and leaving Los Angeles around lunch time.