When Chris McKelvey, 42, Pennsauken, a security guard working Elvis Costello's Saturday concert at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, noticed the singer/songwriter/guitarist wearing a cowboy hat and a sheriff's badge while eating backstage with other Borgata employees, it was a prelude of his authority performing at the Atlantic City venue.
Costello entered the stage with the cowboy hat in hand — but minus the badge and with The Imposters as his posse.
Fans in the Borgata's sold-out, 3,700-seat Event Center did not know what the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer would play from his vast repertoire.
"He's still unique and fresh today," said Eric Wiener, 45, Monmouth Beach, who last saw Costello in 1979. "I want to hear the new stuff, but I hope he does 'Watching The Detectives.'"
Wiener got his wish along with 27 other songs, ranging from the opening number, "Welcome to the Working Week," (from My Aim Is True, Costello's debut album) and ending with "The Scarlet Tide" (from The Delivery Man, his latest).
Costello's spirited guitar playing was most apparent when he walked away from the microphone in the middle of songs, especially on "Needle Time" and "Clubland." Bassist Davey Faragher not only kept in time with his rhythm partner, drummer Pete Thomas, but also provided indispensable background vocals during "Alison," "Nothing Clings Like Ivy" and "Blame It on Cain." Keyboardist Steve Nieve moved nonstop, standing in a hunched-over position working different keyboards, as well as using the theremin on "Bedlam" and a melodica on "The Scarlet Tide."
A real treat for the last half of the concert was Los Lobos member David Hidalgo, who played the accordion during "American Without Tears," accompanied the band on guitar, sang lead on "Mas Y Mas" and shared vocals on "Matter of Time," a Los Lobos song Costello recorded for the group's album The Ride. Hidalgo felt right at home with "Uncomplicated" — he covered this Costello tune on a Los Lobos EP titled Ride This.
Fans were not cheated during the two hour, non-encore concert, but likely would have stayed for more if the house lights did not come up at 11 p.m.