BACK THAT RENT UP
Sirius buys the bottoming-out Bottom Line a bit of time
The Bottom Line may have narrowly avoided eviction last week after Sirius, the subscription-only satellite radio network, announced in court that it would pay $185,000 to settle the back rent the venue owes NYU. But the real credit for the reprieve belongs to Judge Jose Padilla, who nudged the university against its will into negotiation last Wednesday.
“I am not holding any cards,” club lawyer Mark Alonso conceded just before the court date. “We have no lease, we’re paying below-market rent, and we’re in arrears.” Undeterred, Alonso asked two different judges to adjourn the case in the wake of Sirius’s offer, but NYU’s team insisted the school—which is to Noho real estate what water is to a sinking ship—just wanted its money and space back, noting that the university was effectively subsidizing a for-profit business (without mentioning that having a tenant might obligate it to pay property taxes). In classic Housing Court fashion, Judge Padilla sent the parties into the hallway to chat, and left the bench in his robes to pace in circles around them until a shadow of a deal emerged. Landlord then agreed to give tenant four weeks to propose a reasonable rent for the space, which the school estimates could be worth twice the current $11,000 per month.
Alonso wouldn’t say where the new money would come from, but owner, founder, and primary booker Allan Pepper promised “surprises” such as a forthcoming career retro by Bottom Line mainstay David Johansen. Dream on: It’s that kind of thinking that led to the club’s stagnation, transforming it from the most intimate, eclectic, and respected major venue in town into a quaint museum—NYU spokesman John Beckman says he’s heard virtually nothing from current students since the story broke. “Clubs have a life cycle; people like to stand up now,” says Ed Rogers, who curates the Bottom Line’s Loser’s Lounge-like tribute revue “The Beat Goes On.” He fondly recalls seeing the Ramones open for Dr. Feelgood there in 1976, two years after the club opened. “If you want to see new bands, you have to go to the Bowery Ballroom or Brooklyn. But the Bottom Line is an institution.” Which, like its patrons, may have been sitting on its ass a bit too long. —Josh Goldfein
Acrid once-young mouth turns tongue-tied, lovestruck
Vicar of vitriol Elvis Costello adds an even warmer and fuzzier layer to his prolific onion-skinned persona with the release of North, an album of slow, sparsely arranged, and willfully sentimental love songs detailing the meltdown of one relationship and incendiary beginning of another. He sported his New Sincerity as comfortably as his bespoke brown suit at Town Hall on September 22. Accompanied only by longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve, Costello layered nearly all of North into a 28-song “unplugged” (and partially unmic’d) show that refracted two decades of mostly acrid outbursts about love through his latest flame.
North was inspired by fiancée Diana Krall, whose Canadian good looks probably inform its content as much as her straightforward way with a standard helps shape its form. Costello channeled Sinatra as he sang, canoodling with the microphone stand, crooning with hand stuck in pocket, and deploying dynamics from the proverbial whisper to a scream. All of which marked the distance from the mouth almighty of yore to the tongue-tied, love-struck goon of “Someone Took the Words Away.” “I wasn’t very conversational/Except to say that you’re sensational” may have elicited chortles from the audience, but Costello’s artistic risks mostly paid off as we basked in the aura of celebrity rapture.
Costello’s debt to the great American songbook is obvious. “When It Sings” quotes the melody to Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” while the album-closing “I’m in the Mood Again” is a gorgeous Gershwin-esque reflection of love in Manhattan’s streets. As his Vanity Fair listening lists attest, he takes his fandom seriously, too. At Town Hall, “Either Side of the Same Town,” which Costello co-wrote with Howard Tate, and Johnny Cash’s “When Green Eyes Turn Blue” provided deep dark ballast to the relatively sunny new torch songs, whose rolling melodies Costello and Nieve performed with occasional close-enough-for-punk dissonances. And any emotional dissonance the material lacked will surely be compensated for, if ever the bloom should fade. Richard Gehr