In this comfortable outdoor setting a self-assured and amiable Elvis Costello led the versatile, invaluable Attractions through a near-two-hour 35-song pastiche, consisting mainly of his own songs but sprinkled with a few covers (Smokey Robinson, Hank Williams, Ray Charles). He varied his song selection throughout, offering something from his each one of his eight albums for the large crowd, which clamored for its favorites. But he is so prolific that many were (slightly) disappointed that he hadn't played theirs.
On a two-month nationwide tour in support of his most sophisticated albu, to date, Imperial Bedroom, Costello sang nine tunes from the LP as sublime testimonials to the increased emotional depth and broadened stylistic base of his songwriting. Although he is learning to say more with fewer words, he still crams his songs with brilliant lyrics. Yet somehow onstage he seems to step back and create more space for vocal improvisation on his lyrics, dramatizing even more the ironic viewpoints contained in his internal rhymes and alliteration.
His singing and phrasing have never sounded better. The power and presence of his singing frequently juxtaposed the plaintive and tender within the structure of a single song, as on "Kid About It," "Secondary Modern" and "Town Cryer." It is no secret that Costello aspires to write the kind of pop songs that transcend genre and become standards. Undoubtedly he has lost, and will perhaps continue to lose, some of his more one dimensional fans who'd prefer that he never really change.
In one of his three encores, Costello sang three songs back to back that were perhaps intended indirectly as a comment in what has be come commonplace everyday violence in general, and in particular on the tragedy of the Falkland Islands war. "The world is in an uproar, the danger zone is everywhere," Costello sang in Ray Charles' "The Danger Zone." He followed that with "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding"; and in "Shipbuilding," a beautiful song for which Costello wrote lyrics to Clive Langer's music, he sang "With all the will in the world diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls."