Stepping aside from his easy-listening, jazz influenced ventures, Brit-punk icon Elvis Costello is making a return to his musical roots this year. Along with his strong backing band, the Imposters, Costello has released what he describes as his "first loud album in some lime." The album, When I Was Cruel, continues to receive rave reviews from critics and fans alike. The troubadour is now on the road with his band and rediscovered sound. They blazed into Boston's Orpheum Theatre last Monday night, and they did not disappoint the near sold-out crowd.
The crowd leapt to its feet as Costello and his band strutted out onto the stage and tore through the opening number, "I Hope You're Happy Now." Costello's vocals were impressive: his voice is as strong as it was when he first started out 25 years ago. The veteran rocker danced around the stage with an amount of energy uncharacteristic of many performers his age. Although Costello and the band were in high spirits, those many crowd members seemed surprisingly calm as they sat for most of the show.
The following set included numbers from When I Was Cruel, such as "Tear Off Your Own Head," "Spooky Girlfriend," and "45." The keyboardist extraordinaire, "Professor" Steve Nieve, was given an opportunity to show off his skills during these songs.
After hammering out 12 electric numbers, including a masterful rendition of Solomon Burke's "The Judgment," Costello picked up his acoustic guitar and began to play some of his older material. Rarities such as "Indoor Fireworks" and "I'll Wear It Proudly" (from his 1986 hit album King of America) were definitely crowd pleasers.
The regular set ended with a soulful performance of "Deep, Dark, Truthful Mirror." Costello left the stage and returned to kick off the first in a series of encores. The first encore ended with the song that put Costello on the map in 1977, "Alison." The crowd stood and sang along with Costello and applauded wildly, but he was no where near finished.
After another extremely short break, he returned onto the stage and launched into "Beyond Belief." The second encore ended with a bizarre performance of "When I Was Cruel No. 2," with Costello utilizing a beat box for sound effects.
A third encore was also slated for this night. This encore set was a dream ending for any Costello fan. It began with rocking renditions of two of his early hits, "Radio, Radio," and "Pump It Up." The final two songs, "I Want You" and "Almost Blue," were Costello's most emotional, gut-wrenching songs. The lights turned the stage dark purple, and all that was visible was Costello's face, which was lit yellow. The mysterious atmosphere lent even more intrigue to the two closing numbers. Costello walked off the stage amid thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
The night's show, full of new and old rarities alike, left the crowd stunned. Costello's tour continues this week, when he plays two consecutive shows at New York City's Beacon Theatre.