Review of concert from 2002-10-09: Kansas City, MO, Midland
Theatre - with Imposters
- David Cordill
Costello's Cruel is Cool
By David Cordill
Elvis Costello was visibly cranky after finishing his soundcheck before
his October 9th show at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City, MO.
Emerging from the 13th street stage door, Costello made his way toward
a waiting vehicle, grudgingly signing a few autographs along the way,
including an illegible scrawl upon this writer's baseball cap. For whatever
reason, the 48 year old singer/songwriter wasn't in the cheeriest of
moods, as was illustrated by his less than cordial demeanor towards
the handful of people waiting for him near the theatre's south exit
before the show.
A couple of hours later, however, the cruel Costello, along with his
backup band - The Impostors - went on to put on a fine performance.
Nashville native Laura Cantrell opened the show to a warm reception
with her critically acclaimed song stylings. Cantrell, who presently
resides in New York City, has joined the Costello tour for 17 dates
Costello took the stage after a blaring fanfare of trumpets, accompanied
by a yodeling rendition of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, blasted through
the intimate venue. Immediately, he launched into "(I Hope You're)
Happy Now," before going into "Tear Off your Own Head (Doll
Revolution)" from his recent When I Was Cruel release.
Mixing his new material with flawless renditions of his vintage chestnuts
from years past, Costello performed the next fourteen numbers with honest
energy and, when the song demanded it, rich vocals. "You Little
Fool," from 1983's Imperial Bedroom , was a pleasant surprise,
as was with "Party Girl," whose anguished vocals at the end
were even more chilling live than on the Armed Forces recorded version.
A breathless "(I Don't Want To Go to the) Chelsea" was sandwiched
in between Cruel's "Spooky Girlfriend" and "45,"
followed by "The Judgement," an obscure number released on
a compilation CD last July. "I Can't Stand Up (for Falling Down)"
forced more than a few audience members to get out of their comfortable
seats, inspiring many to sing along, clap to the music, and/or dance.
His next selection, "Miracle Man," from his 1977 debut album
- My Aim is True- typified Costello's timeless and trendless material
archive, with each song seemingly in place with all others within his
repertoire. This explains his success, perhaps, because although he
is not what one would call a hit maker, his music transcends pop chart
mentality, and is judged by the amount of cerebral impact it has on
the discriminate listener.
He pushed on with the soft touch of Goodbye Cruel World's "Love
Field," which led to a rich and resonant rendition of "Man
Out of Time" - probably his best song of the evening.
Costello finished off his pre-encore set with the rustic "Indoor
Fireworks," a pepped up, Dave Edmundsesque version of "Girls
Talk," and two versions of "When I Was Cruel." The second
included him singing "My Funny Valentine" out of context with
the former song's accompaniment.
Two well chosen collections from the Costello music library followed
in the encores. The first featured his 1978 airwaves diatribe, "Radio
Radio," "Clubland," from 1981's Trust, and "Mighta'
Been," as heard on the motion picture, The Big Lebowski.
The rest of the this set was punctuated by a stellar version of "Alison,"
and Costello weaving into another Elvis's material - Presley's "Suspicious
Minds" - as well as "Tart," complete with a sing-along
chorus, and from Spike, "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror." Here,
Costello once again steered into another's material, covering Smokey
Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me" during the latter
part of this aforementioned selection.
The final curtain call began with two recent originals - "Another
Episode of Blonde" and "15 Petals" - again from When
I Was Cruel. The set ended with "Watching the Detectives,"
complemented by Costello's bizarre guitar stylings, and a rowdy classic
- "Pump it Up" - before ending the concert with a superb and
gut wrenching finale, "I Want You," with Costello pleading
and reasoning the lyrics into the blackness of the theatre, while the
spotlight focused solely upon his face.
Three years ago, Costello performed at the Midland with Steve Nieve,
his longtime keyboard player. Acoustically, this venue suited that line
up much better than the armed to the teeth band set up presently featured
on this tour. The sound was often muddy, with the bass lines often buried
in the resulting cacophony while signature keyboard were often lost
in the muck.
On the mellower numbers, sound was not a problem, and Costello's vocals
shone in their depth and range.
As a whole, Costello and his band were a tight group, his guitar work
quirky in its customary dissonance, and The Imposters, amply keeping
One of his websites revealed that after the show, Costello happily
signed album covers, sweat towels, and various keepsakes to those fortunate
ones who waited by the stage exit after the show. Several persons remarked
on how gracious he was in accommodating their requests.
Only a few hours before, I saw a different Costello, an angry man who
with his guard up. Perhaps I caught him at a bad time; an instant when
he wasn't the punster of Spike yore, but rather, a moment when he was
Copyright 2002 Metropolitan Community Colleges