|The Elvis Costello
Review of concert from 2002-04-18: with Imposters; NYC, Bowery
Ballroom; private function by Rolling Stone
By DAN AQUILANTE
Elvis Costello will release his first solo pop album since 1996, "When I Was Cruel," this Tuesday.
April 20, 2002 -- THE older Elvis Costello gets, the wiser he gets
about what makes pop music tick.Though the 47-year-old Dubliner has
bristled artistically at the status quo - from his impressive '77 debut,
"My Aim Is True," through Tuesday's release of "When
I Was Cruel" - on closer examination, it's clear that he's had
his finger on the pulse of pop culture all along.
"I've never had a problem with all of these types of music," Costello told The Post from his car en route to Philadelphia.
"I put my heart into whatever I'm working on. When I worked with Burt, for instance, I felt very strongly about it. That's a record I'll be glad I made 20 years from now. That's why you have to do what you feel. "
Costello agrees he is on more familiar ground with "When I Was Cruel," but insisted it isn't a retro blast to his past.
"To be honest, I didn't think I was going back to any sound. I really was keen to make something different. I think you can hear that, even though my voice comes out a certain way and I play the guitar a certain way."
Like Superman trying to hide his extraordinary talents behind Clark Kent glasses, Elvis Costello, at a glance, looks like a mild-mannered man - a little thick at the middle, with as much hair on his face as his head.
But he is transformed when he steps into his phone booth - the stage.
At the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday, in a showcase supporting his new album (he returns to the Beacon Theater on June 18 and 19), Costello flexed his musical muscles, leaping from his remarkable catalog of old songs to numbers that most in the audience had never heard.
Thursday's performance illustrated what his fans have always known - the guy is an underhyped, no b.s. artist who has a point of view, command of his craft and historical perspective.
He also has the knack for pop that can loosen the dancing bone in the stiffest stiff.
He performed a 20-year-old number, "Watching the Detectives," without a hint of rote - spitting familiar lines with pure energy and excitement, as if they were freshly minted.
Yet he was also able to utterly captivate that same audience with brand-new tunes like "15 Petals" and "Episode of Blonde," despite the zero-familiarity factor.
But he ain't a saint.
His mild manner was riled when the guy in charge of keeping his gaggle of guitars in tune and in the boss's hand dropped the ball after Costello performed "Tart."
The guitar tech snatched his six-string away - then surprised Elvis and the house by not immediately replacing it.
Attempting to keep the momentum rolling, Costello began singing his famous "Alison" without benefit of a guitar, but, like a drowning man, he kept his arm outstretched, reaching for an instrument that wasn't there.
Costello, a perfectionist, demands the same from everyone around him.
He was clearly in a mini rage, and his blood pressure only settled down a few songs later, on the new rocker "Tear Off Your Own Head."
It was a hunk of mental kryptonite for Costello, but it didn't detract from one of the top rock performances of 2002 by one of the greatest artists of his generation.
Copyright 2002 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.