Review of in-store perfromance at Virgin Megastore on 1998-10-03
SonicNet, 1998-10-05
- Brian Hiatt

[ Mon., October 5, 8:16 PM EDT ]

Costello, Bacharach Preview Tour
At Record Store

Former new-wave icon calls duo's appearance first
official show supporting Painted From Memory. 

Contributing Editor Brian Hiatt reports: 

NEW YORK -- Elvis Costello appeared to be amused.

The genre-jumping, former new-wave icon and his current musical 
partner, veteran hitmaker Burt Bacharach, were about to play what 
Costello called their first official live show together, spotlighting 
songs from their joint CD, Painted From Memory, released Sept. 29.

But first, the famously acerbic singer/songwriter, whose black-clad 
ensemble was broken only by flashes of yellow on his tie, couldn't 
resist commenting upon the oddness of the venue for their free, 
Saturday-night performance. 

"This is the first time I've ever played in a concert hall with an 
escalator in the middle of it," Costello said, as he and Bacharach 
stood on a tiny stage in the gleaming, cavernous depths of the lower 
level of the newly opened Virgin Megastore in Manhattan's Greenwich 

Despite minimal publicity for the appearance, hundreds of fans, 
mostly in their 20s and 30s, packed the store to see the two 
legendary songwriters perform together. The performance served as a 
preview of Costello and Bacharach's brief upcoming tour and also 
featured an autograph-signing session. Most of the audience appeared 
to be fans of Costello rather than Bacharach, but many toted copies 
of the new album and seemed to know the album's co-written songs 

Michael Farragher is a 45-year-old Manhattan fan who remembers seeing 
Costello perform in the late '70s with the Attractions, Costello's 
hard-rocking, new-wave backup band. At the record-store performance,
Farragher said that he wouldn't have believed back then that he'd
someday see Costello perform with Bacharach, the writer of such soft-
pop hits as "Walk On By" (1964) and "I Say a Little Prayer" (1967).

"It's been a remarkable musical journey," Farragher said. "And [this
is] a wonderful pairing of musical ideas. You can't deny the feeling
in Bacharach's piano playing."

With Bacharach playing delicate piano accompaniment, Costello began
the short set with Painted From Memory's "Toledo", singing the song's
witty, urbane lyrics carefully but passionately, in a vibrato-laden
croon that showed little trace of his rock roots.

Costello started off singing with one hand placed casually in his 
pocket, in a style closer to that of the late, great crooner Frank 
Sinatra than that of a pioneering rocker. But on emotional songs, 
such as the new album's "This House Is Empty Now," he abandoned the
laid-back pose. Instead, Costello gripped the microphone-stand 
tightly, swaying it back and forth as he sang so fiercely that his
face went flush.

Bacharach's piano performance was no less impassioned, as he 
displayed his celebrated melodic sense with impromptu fills and 
filigrees that took the place of the more elaborate arrangements on 
the duo's album. The grandfatherly Bacharach, dressed in a blue 
sweater over a white polo shirt -- a la children's television 
personality Mr. Rogers -- could occasionally be seen mouthing the 
words to the songs as Costello sang them.

The duo also worked its way through two other songs from Painted From 
Memory: the title track and "I Still Have That Other Girl in My 
Head." The performance concluded with "God Give Me Strength", a song 
-- included on both the soundtrack to the movie "Grace of My Heart" 
and Painted From Memory -- that marked the genesis of Bacharach and 
Costello's collaboration.

Though there was no denying that the brightly lit, ultra-modern 
"megastore" was a bizarre setting for a low-key, piano-and-vocal 
performance of the duo's melancholy songs of heartbreak, the audience 
greeted each song with respectful silence, then raucous applause,
which visibly pleased Bacharach and Costello.

"We're glad to see you want to hear the new songs," Costello said
from the stage.

The duo encored with an intense version of Bacharach and Hal David's 
'60s classic "Make It Easy on Yourself," which was recorded by pop 
singer Dionne Warwick, the performer most associated with Bacharach-
David tunes. Costello promised from the stage that his and
Bacharach's upcoming tour would feature performances of other 
Bacharach classics as well as Costello's own songs. "I can't tell you 
how much I'm enjoying working with this gentleman," he said of 

As he waited for post-performance autographs in a line that stretched 
throughout the store's bottom floor, Joshua Hertz, a 23-year-old 
Manhattanite, praised the show. 

"It was great. Those are hard songs to sing live, and it must be odd 
at this stage in [Costello's] career to have people walking in and 
out like that," he said, referring to people walking on the same 
escalator that Costello had noticed.

As he signed autographs, Costello, now wearing a black fur hat and a 
yellow scarf, said that he didn't really mind the escalator. "I loved 
it. It was like having a stage show," he said, his grin revealing the 
famous gap between his front teeth.

Following the performance, Bacharach expressed delight at the 
audience's reaction. "It was a fantastic response, a wonderful 
crowd," he said. Costello echoed him: "It was tremendous; it
was unbelievable. I mean, we didn't know what it would be like, 
playing intimate songs in a place like this with all [the] bright 

The duo's tour will begin Oct. 13 with a show at Radio City Music 
Hall in Manhattan and will continue with shows in Washington, D.C., 
Chicago and Universal City, Calif.