For his first CD since his 2013 collaboration with The Roots (Wise Up Ghost) and his first CD with The Imposters since 2008's Momofuku, Look Now (Concord Records), by Elvis Costello & The Imposters, is an exquisitely crafted collection. The arrangements are sublime, his vocals some of his best in recent memory. Recorded in Hollywood, New York City and Vancouver, the 12 new EC songs (two written with Burt Bacharach which reminds one of their beautiful 1998 duet album Painted From Memory) and one with Carole King (album highlight "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter") are mature, sultry, surprising and garnished with the kind of production flairs (EC co-produced with top Latin Grammy winner Sebastian Krys) that translate into ear candy (from fuzz-tones and woodwinds to a big bad bassoon).
Supporting it with a tour, he started his road work in Bethlehem Pennsylvania at the Sands. Longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas were in rare form as Elvis pulled out all the stops in an epic two-hour, 25-song party that included nine from Look Now. The first night of any tour is always loose, experimental and oftentimes can result in human moments like when he had to start a song over. ("Hey, it's Day #1," he explained.)
So what songs do you pick from a 40-year career? Perhaps, at 64, having survived a cancer scare that cut short his last Euro tour, he was feeling melancholy. Thus, he did NOT play to the casual fan but absolutely thrilled us fanatics with deeper cuts while still making sure to bust out the favorites like an almost-acapella "Alison" done in-between two bronze beauties who added soul and sex appeal. His guitar-only "Indoor Fireworks" and piano-only "Accidents Will Happen" were two dramatic highlights. He can still play the sneering punk of "This Year's Girl" and "Pump It Up" but it was the slinky reggae feel of "Watching The Detectives" and the all-out bombast of "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" that brought down the house.
Plus, to hear him do Nick Lowe's 1974 "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love & Understanding," Dusty Springfield's 1967 "The Look Of Love," his own '80s deep cut "Honey, Are You Straight Or Are You Blind" (and "Clubland"!!), not to mention "Everyday I Write The Book" which ballooned into 17 minutes, complete with band introductions amid an oddball version of Jean Knight's 1971 "Mr. Big Stuff," was a total joy. The fans here in the Lehigh Valley were hot for him and he could feel the love. It was a wonderful night.