NO STRINGS: When Elvis Costello toured last...

NO STRINGS: When Elvis Costello toured last year playing his own brand of chamber music with a classical ensemble, the Brodsky Quartet, he couldn't fit Orange County into his plans. . . . The witty, hard-edged English rocker will be at Irvine Meadows on Saturday (OC Live!), but hold the violins--this time, Costello has reunited with his original, hard-charging backup trio, the Attractions. It's their first tour together since 1986.

COLOR THEM GONE: Orange County Fair officials were proud they had snared pop music's Color Me Badd as their opening night act for this year's fair run, July 8-24. Alas, they just found out that the group's members have decided to focus their energies on the recording studio: They've canceled all their public appearances the rest of the year. . . . "We're crushed," says fair spokeswoman Jill Lloyd. "But we hope to have a new opening act before the end of the week."

CHECKING IN: Who guitarist Pete Townshend, creator of the rock opera "Tommy" (F1), was at the musical Wednesday at Orange County Performing Arts Center's Segerstrom Hall. A spokesman says Townshend isn't regularly in the audience but likes to drop by as a quality-control measure. . . . The hall, by the way, is getting raves from the show's director, Des McAnuff. "I really like the feel of that house," he says. "For 'Tommy' especially, you need a big sound, and in a big space like Segerstrom you can get it."

PURE COUNTRY: The Buena Park Cultural Arts Foundation wanted someone really big to headline a fund-raiser for its long-planned Community Arts Center. It didn't take long to decide on Merle Haggard. Tickets for tonight's event at Knott's Berry Farm range from $20 to $100. . . . KIK-FM deejay Brian Cowan will introduce Haggard and admits that "this is very exciting for me." He says of Haggard: "He's the only true living legend in country music. He has the defining sound that is country music."

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