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Review of concert from 2002-11-02: Miami Beach, FL, Jackie Gleason Theatre - with Imposters
Palm Beach Post, 2002-11-04
- Charles Passy

 

Versatile Costello rocks Miami Beach

By Charles Passy, Palm Beach Post Arts Writer
Monday, November 4, 2002

MIAMI BEACH -- Elvis Costello has always stayed on the noncommercial side of the musical fence. Despite his early success as a quasi-punk icon with a tuneful sensibility, he's never pledged allegiance to one camp, never chased a formula. He's simply kept adding to what's now become one of the quirkiest catalogs in pop music.

And in the midst of all this, he's also emerged as one of the most engaging entertainers on the touring circuit.

Costello brought his catalog, songs full of equal parts vitriol and romantic swagger, to the Jackie Gleason Theatre Saturday night. His two-hour performance, attended by a capacity crowd that turned the aisles into a dance floor, offered evidence of why the road-less-traveled approach has worked so well.

For starters, although Costello's songs, with their jagged edges of heartbreak and left-of-center politics, may not have radio all over them, they are great vehicles for the stage -- and for his smart brand of showmanship. As he brandished his guitar like a musical gunslinger, Costello turned these tunes into mini-monologues, whether he was basking in the raw, night-crawling vibe of (I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea or cooing his way through the plaintive sentiments of Alison, to name two of the classic numbers he served up.

And that theatrical approach extended to his latest material. In one recent song, Spooky Girlfriend -- the title pretty much says it all -- Costello worked in a delicious anecdote about a chance encounter with Jennifer Lopez on an elevator. (Spooky indeed.) Meanwhile, another new song, 45, burst with a rhythmic snap that made the autobiographical details come alive. (His tight backup band, including longtime associates drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve, added considerable bite to every musical measure.)

Perhaps more remarkable is that Costello accomplished all this while constantly shifting musical gears. The punk and New Wave leanings of his earlier material suddenly gave way to something closer to jazz or classical.

He played surf guitar, sang like Otis Redding, even went all honky-tonk -- sometimes within the context of one song. A case in point: He worked Suspicious Minds -- you know, the number that other Elvis sang -- right toward the end of his haunting rendition of Alison. Perfect timing.

Opening for Costello was Laura Cantrell, a fine alt-country singer who seems just a single or two away from reaching a broader audience.

Copyright 2002, The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved.
 
         
 

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