Elvis Costello gets crowd dancing and shouting at Paramount
By BILL WHITE
SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Fifty years ago, the monkey tried to talk to man but man wouldn't listen.
Thursday night, in front of a capacity crowd at the Paramount theatre, the monkey tried again. This time he spoke through the mouth and the music of Elvis Costello, and man not only listened, but danced and shouted back.
"Monkey to Man" was one of eight songs Costello performed from his recent release, "The Delivery Man." He played 20 additional songs as well, getting off to a comfortable start with "Blue Chair" and "Uncomplicated" from 1986's "Blood and Chocolate."
Costello was accompanied by keyboardist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and new bassist Danny Faragher, whose excellent vocal harmonies gave a Beatle-esque twist to earlier songs such as "Blame it on Cain." Costello himself was in fine voice throughout the evening, keeping things relaxed yet passionate in warm tones that did not strain his upper register.
Of the new material, "Either Side of the Same Town" was the most expressive, offering a glimpse of what Jackie Wilson might have sounded like had he been a country singer. "Button My Lip" was one of several non-melodic, abrasive rockers, but Costello used the occasion to demonstrate his improvement as a lead guitarist.
He played some sensitive acoustic guitar as well. With Steve Nieve on melodica, "Our Little Angel" and "Suit of Lights" provided some mid-concert country comfort.
The evening's dramatic highlight was the back-to-back explosion of "When I Was Cruel #2" and a hard-boiled "Watching the Detectives" that had none of the coy cynicism of the original.
Not one to let an orchestra pit separate him from his audience, Costello sat on the edge of the stage to deliver a tender "Alison" that took an unlikely digression through a chorus of "Suspicious Minds" with the melody altered to fit the chord progression.
The evening climaxed with six pumped-up rockers where one would have sufficed. From "Mystery Dance" to Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City," the band pumped it up and pushed it out like a body builder going for a world record on the barbells.
Costello left them weeping with a sweetly tragic "The Scarlet Tide," his Grammy-nominated song from "Cold Mountain."
Sondre Lerche opened with a short set that recalled Costello's solo electric shows from the 1980s. Like Costello, Lerche draws musical inspiration from an array of sources. With clever melodies, wild guitar arrangements, and a lovely voice that sailed confidently into falsetto, he delighted the crowd.