At the beginning of Elvis Costello's show Saturday night, the classy Tower Theater was transformed into a trashy dance club by stage trickery that included tacky, overzealous lighting effects.
It was a distracting display and did not bode well for the remainder of the evening.
However, after the opening number, Costello took over, and with a stellar performance, mitigated the overzealous production techniques.
With the energy of a rambunctious teenager, the 47-year-old entertainer commanded the stage, giving one of his best performances in years. It was evident, through Costello's passion, demeanor and interaction with the crowd, that his music is something he still cares about deeply.
Backed by the Impostors — keyboardist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher — Costello played for nearly two hours.
He spoke proudly about his new album, When I Was Cruel (Warner Bros.), performing "15 Petals," "Tart," "Spooky Girlfriend" and the title track with the same enthusiasm he reserved for his many classics, including "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," "Radio, Radio" and "Watching the Detectives."
Toward the end of Costello's set, audience members pushed their way up to the front of the theater, to sing and dance with other Costello fans. Yes, even 25 years down a long and winding road that has led him into several commercial and artistic cul-de-sacs, Costello's aim remains remarkably true.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Joe Henry opened with an all-acoustic set, and though a talented musician, he seemed to lack Costello's passion and energy for his own brooding ruminations about life.