Los Angeles — Elvis Costello's much-anticipated six-city US tour kicked off here Oct. 1 with the first of five sold-out shows at the Beverly Theater.
Dubbed Costello Sings Again, the intimate-venue tour features the idiosyncratic vocalist in a different musical setting each night. Costello is being backed by two different assemblages during the tour: his regular group, the Attractions, and the Confederates, an aggregation of crack studio musicians who played on the singer's King Of America album, released earlier this year.
The tour, which coincides with the release of Blood And Chocolate, his second Columbia album of 1986, continues through October. Other stops include San Francisco, Oct. 8-10; Chicago, Sunday-Tuesday (12-14); Boston, Thursday-Saturday (16-18); New York, Oct. 21-25; and Philadelphia, Oct. 27-29.
The first show of the LA visit was perhaps the least surprising: Costello & the Attractions (keyboardist Steve Nieve, bassist Bruce Thomas, and drummer Pete Thomas) ran through a retrospective of 25 songs from nine albums. The band fielded requests from the audience during the performance.
The second and third nights combined solo stints by Costello with full-band sets with the Confederates. On the second evening, there was also a miniset by the "Coward Brothers" — Costello and producer/musician T-Bone Burnett — who sang playful renditions of country standards. The Confederates (Burnett, guitarist James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff, keyboardist Mitchell Froom, and drummer Jim Keltner) augmented selections from King Of America with crackling covers of blues, r&b, and country oldies.
The most eagerly sought-after ticket during the LA stint was for the penultimate night, dubbed the Spectacular Spinning Songbook. Taking a cue from Wheel Of Fortune, the performance used a giant wheel bearing 40 song titles; spins by audience members determined the song selection, which was then performed by Costello & the Attractions.
John Doe of X and Tom Waits co-hosted the Songbook show; Susanna Hoffs and Vicki and Debbi Peterson of the Bangles performed three songs with Costello. Costello's wife, Caitlin O'Riordan of the Pogues, also performed — as a go-go dancer, disguised in a red wig.
The final LA concert, featuring Costello & the Attractions, leaned heavily on material from Blood And Chocolate. Tom Petty guested on three encore numbers.