Austin Chronicle, October 11, 2002

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Elvis has left the yard


Ken Lieck

Hard to believe it's been a quarter-century since Chronicle contributor Ed Ward split from Rolling Stone because of that magazine's indifference to a young rocker who called himself Elvis Costello. It was even harder to believe that it has been 25 years since the release of My Aim Is True, watching Costello pull out an endless stream of early classics from his brutal youth at the Backyard last Sunday. Tempering the sharp, throwback material of his new album, When I Was Cruel (as opposed to the really new b-sides spinoff Cruel Smile), with "Radio, Radio," "Watching the Detectives," "Pump It Up," and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," Costello put on a galvanizing two-hour show that left some 3,000 beaming in disbelief. Each selection came out more powerful and desperate than the last, through three encores that seemed less like applause-milkers than calculated pauses to allow E to change gears. Some shifts were monumental indeed; Costello's voice has gained strength over the years (it's almost Joe Strummer-ish now), and "Alison" would've been a tearjerker even without Costello's singing a verse of "Put Your Sweet Lips Closer to the Phone" and that other Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" midway through!

Even the stuff not yet fully raised onto pedestals kept the crowd happy, though the band kept the country-tinged bitter ballads to a minimum. Perhaps the oddest moment was the last, when the Imposters (the Attractions minus one) slammed the full five gears into reverse and dropped the taut melody-punk of 1977-80 for the primal scream session of "I Want You." Screechy and seemingly self-indulgent in an almost prog-rock manner, it was one of those moments where you wonder momentarily what could possess the man to deliver such a finale. Then you realize it was part of the whole gestalt and paste that smile back on your face.

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The Austin Chronicle, October 11, 2002


Ken Lieck reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Sunday, October 6, 2002, The Backyard, Austin, TX.

Images

2002-10-11 Austin Chronicle photo 01 gm.jpg
Photo by Gary Miller.

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