Elvis Costello & The Imposters At The Wiltern
I must confess: I have missed only one Elvis Costello tour ever - and it wasn't by choice. Costello has an amazing ability to make every performance riveting, fresh and a breath-taking musical experience.
Costello's Saturday show at the Wiltern was transcendent to be almost religious, yet pleasurable enough to be almost sinful...
Costello demonstrated once again why he is one of contemporary music's most interesting and important artists. His Los Angeles show was the final stop on the first leg of his current US tour.
Costello and The Imposters (Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas & Davey Faragher) played an energetic set of 36 songs within two and a half hours that grabbed you by the ears from the first notes of "The Next Time Round" and didn't let go until the last song - the Oscar-nominated "The Scarlet Tide."
The show had something for everyone. But, instead of sounding like a mish mash of differing styles, Costello emphasized his more roots-rock material. This fit in with the songs from his latest CD, "The Delivery Man" - from which he played 10 out of the CD's 13 cuts. Of these new songs, Costello's live renditions of "Button My Lip," "Country Darkness," "Needle Time," "Bedlam," "Monkey to Man" and title track were real stand-outs.
Costello pulled material spanning his 27+ years of recording. Legendary guitarist John McFee was a special guest for the show. McFee played steel guitar on a number of country-infused selections - from the current "Heart Shaped Bruise" to 1981's covers of "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down" and "Sweet Dreams" (from "Almost Blue") and Costello's own "Waiting For The End Of The World." Costello preceded his set with McFee by noting that he met Loretta Lynn during his Nashville recording sessions for "Almost Blue" "...before Jack White was a glimmer in Mr. & Mrs. White's eyes...." Later in the concert, McFee also played lead guitar on early Costello faves "Mystery Dance," "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)" and "Alison."
Country music was clearly on Costello's mind all evening. Costello played "Hidden Shame" which he wrote for Johnny Cash and "Stranger In The House" which he did with George Jones. And, he made reference to the Bob Dylan / Merle Haggard show across town at the Pantages.
But the 50 year old still could rock. Classics such as "Accidents Will Happen," "Radio Radio," "Watching the Detectives" and "Pump It Up" had the audience on its feet dancing. The songs sounded as fresh as when the legendary "Angry Young Man" first performed them in the late 1970s.
A typical Costello concert trademark is referencing songs within songs he has made famous. And, true to form, he did so in "Clubland" (playing "I Feel Pretty") and in "What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding" (referencing "The Kids Are Alright"). Costello also played a brilliant cover of Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City."
Opening for Costello was talented Norwegian artist Sondre Lerche. Lerche was a good match for Costello with his strong songwriting talents and engaging stage presence. The 22 year old demonstrated incredible self-confidence by performing with just his voice and his guitar. Lerche played selections from his two Astralwerks releases and was able to win over a tough audience during his all-too-brief set.