Elvis Costello and the Attractions released their first full-length collaboration in a decade this year with All This Useless Beauty, another collection of stellar songs that sold modestly but earned the usual raves. Before the band toured America, the singer/guitarist hit several U.S. cities with Attractions pianist Steve Nieve for a series of mostly acoustic dates. Costello & Nieve features two hours of the duo's performances culled from shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York.
The five-disc EP collection, previously released to radio stations to promote the Attractions shows, has been issued in a limited edition of only 30,000 copies, so rabid Costello fans will want to snatch up this gem fast.
Over 26 tracks, the duo offer ample evidence that Costello's songs can stand up without much instrumentation.
Costello and Nieve perform spare versions of all but one song from All This Useless Beauty, a few covers (such as the Grateful Dead's "Ship of Fools") and a fair amount of tracks from Costello's extensive back catalog (including two versions of "The Long Honeymoon").
Nieve's quirky but classically grounded playing has always been the perfect complement for Costello's moody, sometimes overreaching vocals. The pianist adds menace to the reggae-tinged rocker, "Watching the Detectives," but the set concentrates on ballads like "Man Out Of Time," "Just a Memory" and "Black Sails in the Sunset." Costello and Nieve strip "Temptation" (from 1980's Get Happy) of its up-tempo R&B style and transform it into a gentle near-lullaby.
Longtime fans will cherish every moment of Costello and Nieve.