Review of concert 1999-06-22: Cleveland, OH, Nautica Stage
Cleveland Scene, 1999-07-01
- David Martin


Elvis Costello
Nautica Stage
June 22

Elvis Costello referred to his appearance at the Nautica Stage as "a little show." It was little only in the sense that Costello is traveling with one musician: Attraction Steve "Nieve" Nason on the keyboards and piano. Everything else was big. Costello and Nieve played a lengthy set that ended with an almost-as-lengthy encore. Elvis's voice was expansive, cradling the ballads and splitting the rockers. Hearts were big, too, as Costello displayed a tenderness for the material and—egad!—his audience that never bordered on schmaltz.

Costello's recorded output of recent years may be schizophrenic, but onstage he swung effortlessly between crooner and punk. While Costello dug deep into the Burt Bacharach songbook ("This House Is Empty," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"), it was an Elvis show. After an extended run through Burtland, Elvis introduced the next batch as "songs we wrote when we were young and impetuous." Elvis shed his acoustic guitar to sing a lovely version of "Temptation"; his right hand cut through the air on the accented notes, as if he were conducting himself. "Every Day I Write the Book" sounded as sweet today as it did in the '80s.

Fans of the angry, skinny-tied Costello might have looked at the spare stage with disappointment. His trademark Fender Jazzmaster was nowhere in sight. Actually, the acoustic setting seemed to liberate the rocker within. Costello turned "Uncomplicated" into a bluesy rumble, while encore numbers like "Watching the Detectives," "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding," and "Pump It Up" were not sagging nostalgia trips.

Bitterness, Costello seems to have learned, is a wasteful emotion—and especially unbecoming in a 45-year-old man. Toward the end of the show, he joked that Pink Floyd, the Stones, and U2 like to tour with giant inflatables and television screens. All he ever wanted were sequined backup singers. "As for me," he said, "those girls still haven't showed up."

No, but he certainly did.—David Martin

(c) 1999 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.