Elvis Costello/Emmylou Harris
The first sign Elvis Costello's concert Sunday at the Chevrolet Amphitheatre was going to be different came three songs in when "Every Day I Write the Book" was cast with an orchestral accent courtesy of Steve Nieve's keyboards. And while "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" and "Radio Radio" were classic Costello, another subtle change came when sideman Larry Campbell sat down to play pedal steel on "Country Darkness," setting the stage for Emmylou Harris' entrance two songs later.
It wasn't quite a hoedown, but Harris' luminous presence allowed Costello to explore his longtime love affair with country music.
Those would be highlights enough for most shows, but a passing train prompted Costello to launch into an impromptu, magical version of "Mystery Train" with Harris. Supercharged versions of "Mystery Dance" and "Pump It Up" gave way to the sweet heartbreak of "Alison."
And still there was more: A nine-song encore featured covers of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," "Love Hurts" and Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece," before Costello rolled out "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" and the chilling "Scarlet Tide."
All this in almost three hours that no other artist save Costello could pull off.
-- Regis Behe