Standing in a blue suit under a white hat that would fit an 1890’s carnival barker, Elvis Costello told the crowd at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, “I thought being in Fort Lauderdale, I would just sing my songs about love and fidelity. But that would be a short set.” On the final night of his Detour tour, this set was anything but short. Closing in on thirty songs, with three encores, Costello belied his sixty years by performing for over two and a half hours.
For a majority of the show, the bespectacled troubadour stood alone strumming his guitar and occasionally tickling the ivories of a piano. With the exception of one coughing fit that forced him to start a song over, his voice sounded terrific projecting to the furthest reaches of the theater. As if to prove the power of his voice, he sang a verse away from the microphone, nervous fans shushed others in the room. But they needn’t have bothered as his words reached the back row. Besides, the crowd was as respectful as any I’d ever sat amongst, between notes was utter silence.
The devoted clung to every lyric, from the first verse of opening song "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" to the third and final encore. Standing in front of a giant old school television that showed random stanzas of poetry amidst black and white still photography, the ten foot tall television was his only prop, and it was multifunctional. Before he took the stage, the television played old videos from Costello’s four decade musical career. Then during the second encore, he stood inside the television, playing an electric guitar and belting out some of his bigger hits like “Alison” and a slowed down version of “Pump It Up.”
Much of the set was acoustic. At one point, he sat down with his steel guitar and let out a solid whistle as he sang “Walking My Baby Back Home” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Florida Keys.” Much of the evening had that down-home intimate front porch vibe with Uncle Elvis sharing stories between songs from his past. There was the one about his father singing on the same television program as the Beatles and about the time he fell in lust with a Mexican driver and they fought over what to listen to on the radio before settling on Eddie Money.
It was telling how most of his stories had to do with music. At a time in Elvis Costello’s career where he’s already proven himself, he could have done what many of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted peers do on tour: played his greatest hits for an hour and called it a night. Instead, he tested the limits of how long the Broward Center for Performing Arts would stay open and enraptured fans would stay glued to their seats.