Elvis Costello has his own Boston history down pat.
Last night at the Orpheum Theatre he reeled off his last few local gigs — at the Fleadh, MixFest '98 and his recording gigs at the Paradise — just like that.
That Costello ultimately performed 30 of his classic, lyrically dense, beautifully crafted pop rock songs in a two and a half hour set without flubbing a line, proved that memory is clearly not a problem for him. And even if it was, the adoring crowd was there to help him along with every word, from every facet of his 22-year career from angry young man to mature cocktail crooner.
Costello was joined by extremely simpatico ex-Attractions pianist Steve Nieve who gave deep resonance through an array of tasteful and passionately played keys.
The duo took to the minimally decorated stage in darkness and began with the intense grinding sounds of "Alibi" as light ever so slowly shed on them.
Following the first of many hearty ovations was a delicately rendered acoustic "Man Out of Time" showcasing the strong, cutting quality of Costello's still steely voice. "Little Triggers" seethed in a slow boil, while "What's Her Name Today" began the elegant and mournful offerings from his Burt Bachrach collaboration.
The 45-year-old Brit debuted a few solid pop sounding new tunes, joked that the mocking "Temptation" "could've been written about you" if you attended his Paradise gig 20 years ago and tacked Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said" onto his own zippy "Radio Sweetheart."
His lengthy encores became a mini-hits set with the duo laying into "Clubland," "Pump it Up," "Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes," the gloriously hushed and nakedly vulnerable "I Want You" and the vaudevillian romp "God's Comic."
And proving that he's spent quality time with Tony Bennett, Costello performed an entire song without a microphone and his heartfelt bray reached the back of the theatre with ease.