Boston Herald, February 28, 2004

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Versatile star Costello takes
fans for ride, wins applause


Sarah Rodman

Elvis Costello is one lucky rock star.

Many veterans are forced into being human jukeboxes by nostalgic audiences. Yet, regardless of what musical excursion Costello feels like taking — be it a side road into country, a detour into torch singing or a left turn into classical — a portion of his audience will be happy to accompany him with open ears and cheer him on.

Last night at the Wang Theatre the journey included all of the above in a two-hour-plus performance that featured the nuanced contributions of pianist Steve Nieve and the Brodsky Quartet. The 49-year-old Liverpudlian mixed and matched his styles with relative ease, showcasing both his own and BQ violist Paul Cassidy's deft arrangements of the chamber pop songs of Costello's newest album North and rearrangements of New Wave faves.

The latter, including a tremulous and trippy "Watching the Detectives" and a reinvigorated acoustic take of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," were sprinkled throughout the set.

The string players in the Brodsky Quartet, both in a seven-song midset appearance and in a lengthy encore, proved a complementary bunch.

Whether it was embodying the creepy, stalking cadences of bitter "Pills and Soap" or evoking — with their muted melancholy — the last moment before the sun sinks over the horizon on the autumnal ballad "Fallen," they added grace.

Pianist Nieve was his usual animated self, attacking the keys on rockers like "45" and laying back into filigreed solos that ranged from gentle cabaret caresses to bombastic blasts of percussion.

Costello himself was in fine fettle both vocally and comically. The Bachrach gem "This House is Empty Now" was a particularly fine melody with which to showcase his seemingly empowered pipes and he went to town with one-liners during, appropriately enough, the mischievous "God's Comic." His barbs grazed everything from weapons of mass destruction to mainstream country music to gay marriage to Cher.

Most importantly Costello, recently married to jazz pianist-vocalist Diana Krall, seemed happy and engaged, giving his all to songs of romantic despair and ecstasy with the spark of someone who's known the former and is bursting with the latter.

Elvis Costello's fans are some lucky music fans.

© Copyright by Herald Interactive Advertising Systems, Inc.

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Boston Herald, February 28, 2004


Sarah Rodman reviews Elvis Costello with Steve Nieve and The Brodsky Quartet, Friday, February 27, 2004, Wang Centre, Boston, MA.


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