Costello's fast-paced show brings audience to its feet
By Patrick MacDonald Seattle Times music critic
Like a spring tonic, Elvis Costello energized a capacity audience last night at the Paramount with a fast-paced, hard-rocking, two-hour set that showed that he's at the peak of his performance powers.
What made the show especially exciting was that some of the best songs came from his latest album, "The Delivery Man," which has a darker, edgier side than his New Wave hits of the 1970s, some of which also showed up in the 29-song set list.
Four songs in a row from the new CD - "Button My Lip," "Country Darkness," "Bedlam" and "Needle Time" - came early and turned the place out. Another new song, "Monkey to Man," was one of the highlights of the night, with Costello wailing on guitar in a long, powerful solo.
While the audience rose with standing ovations several times, for "Radio Radio," "Watching the Detectives," "Clubland" and other songs, Costello upped the intimacy when he sat on the edge of the stage to sing the beautiful love song "Alison," then went into the audience for the next song, "Almost Blue." That got the whole crowd on its feet, and many folks rushed down to the stage.
Nearly everybody danced to the final 10 songs, which included "Pump It Up," and covers of Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)?" and Nick Lowe's lively "Heart of the City" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."
The show opened with "Blue Chair," followed by "Blood and Chocolate," which set the mostly hard-rock pace for the night and included some sweet organ touches by brilliant keyboardist Steve Nieve. Eight of the 13 songs on "The Delivery Man" were featured, including the title cut, "Either Side of the Same Town" and, the closer, "The Scarlet Tree." (There was no encore.)
Costello drew from his more than 25 years of recordings, bringing out such obscure songs as "Our Little Angel," "Suit of Lights," "In the Darkest Place" and "Kinder Murder." Other songs in the set included "Brilliant Disguise," "Blame It On Cain" and "When I Was Cruel."
The songs came fast, one often blending into another. He spoke only a few times, including a story about how he got his start playing for dancers at a real lonely-hearts club in his native England. But even that was short. He was there for the playing, and he seemed to love doing it.
His tight band also included Pete Thomas on drums and Davey Farragher on bass.
Sondre Lerche, a baby-faced sophisticate from Norway (who speaks perfect English), opened with breezy, jazzy, mature love songs, à la Burt Bacharach. He sang in a rich, varied voice and played electric guitar with lots of style and dynamics.