Boston Herald, October 22, 2002

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Costello flips through years
of his songbook at Orpheum


Dean Johnson

Elvis Costello, with NRBQ, at the Orpheum, last night.

There just haven't been many rock concerts that started with a recorded, yodeled rendition of the "William Tell Overture."

But there was one at the Orpheum last night, and that's indicative of the playful, upbeat mood that permeated both headliner Elvis Costello's and opener NRBQ's sets for a near-capacity crowd.

When Elvis Costello burst onto the punk scene more than 25 years ago, he was called the New Wave Dylan, punk's enfant terrible, and a bunch of other things.

His expansive, 135-minute set last night featured nearly thirty songs and provided ample evidence that he's lived up to that first moniker more than any other.

Like Dylan, Costello now has an enormous, impressive personal songbook, and in concert he picks from it seemingly at random: old songs, new songs, odd cover versions, obscure tracks, wildly rearranged numbers, et al. He also has a crack backing outfit behind him these days, a la Mr. Zimmerman.

There is one glaring concert difference, however. It's still easy to identify Costello's songs. Even last night's reworked tunes - such as a semi-acoustic "Girls Talk" or a "Complicated Shadows" that was more of a shuffle than an ominous rocker - kept their keen edge.

Costello opened with a potent one-two punch: crunching renditions of "I Hope You're Happy Now" and "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll's Revolution)" backed by longtime collaborators Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, as well as bassist Davey Faragher.

The band kept up the heat early on, and Costello bashed through more songs such as "Spooky Girlfriend" and "I Can't Stand Up." Dressed in black, he changed guitars after almost every song, briefly joked with the crowd and accepted flowers.

A semi-acoustic segment featured the title track from his latest album, When I Was Cruel. Later he even tossed in "My Mood Swings" from the soundtrack to The Big Lebowski. His version of "Alison" even segued into the other Elvis' territory and quoted from "Suspicious Minds."

Encore time was nearly as long as the regular set and included bracing takes of "Pump It Up" and "Radio Radio." A few songs went on too to long, Costello sometimes bleats when he should sing, but overall he delivered the kind of concert that should have satisfied even his hardcore fans ... except maybe for the yodeling thing.

Costello came across as sober as a judge compared to the still goofy and carefree NRBQ that mixed serious chops with a wild variety of whimsical, upbeat tunes.

Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Interactive Advertising Systems, Inc.

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Boston Herald, October 22, 2002


Dean Johnson reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Monday, October 21, 2002, Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA.


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