Acoustic Elvis. What's not to like? On the heels of Elvis Costello's brilliant autobiography, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink (Blue Rider Press), comes this nearly two-hour DVD of Costello performing a slew of solo songs on a variety of Gibson flattop acoustics (a J-160E and J-50, among others), two Gibson Super 400 archtops, and grand piano. On about a third of the tunes, he's backed by Larkin Poe- Atlanta sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell on mandolin and David Lindley-esque electric lap steel, respectively, plus heavenly vocal harmonies. It's an intimate affair, with Costello spinning tales (most from the book) about everything from the origin of some of his songs to the influence of his musician/ bandleader father, Ross MacManus. Costello even "duets" briefly with his dad via a cool, campy, '60s-era video of MacManus singing "If I Had a Hammer."
This is no mere recitation of "hits." Rather, this concert bounces around Costello's entire career, from 1977's My Aim Is True to 2010's National Ransom, ignoring most of his albums (he has been scarily prolific) and including a number of more obscure tunes, all of which he delivers in his inimitable style with a conviction that allows them to sit comfortably next to some of his best-known songs. My favorites include "When I Was Cruel," the slowed-down gospel take on Sam & Dave's "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down," the Band-like "Blame It on Cain," and everything featuring Larkin Poe, but especially "A Good Year for the Roses" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."