Music fans ranging from their early 20s to late 50s filed into the Grady Cole Center on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College Tuesday night for Elvis Costello's first Charlotte gig of his 35-plus year career.
"I don't think we've ever played in Charlotte before," he said five songs into the set, taking his first breath after running through well-known favorites "Mystery Dance," "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)," and "Radio, Radio."
The crowd snapped to attention as soon as Costello and his band, which includes longtime members of The Attractions guitarist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, hit the stage.
"That's Elvis Costello!" said Caitlin Lacy, 23, as the 50-year-old Brit approached his mike in a black suit, looking ever the chic geek in a striped tie and glasses. "I'm pretty excited."
One fan guessed that the $35 ticket price kept younger fans away.
"If the ticket price had been cut in half the age of this crowd would be cut in half," said Brian Rayfield, 22. "There is a whole scene of college kids whether they're from CPCC, UNCC or even UNC Greensboro that would have come to this show if the tickets had been cheaper."
Ticket prices didn't keep struggling local musicians away.
Hope Nichols and members of The Mersey Sound, First Night on Earth, Esposito, Hard Times Family, Lou Ford, and Bellglide turned up to catch the influential legend.
"I'm a ridiculous fan," said Chad Edwards, 31, of Hard Times Family. "Except for the songs off of the new album, I know all of the words."
Costello balanced new songs like the slow Americana of "Country Darkness" from his latest release The Delivery Man, with old favorites like the bopping reggae-tinged "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" and "Clubland."
He pulled out all the stops for the finale, which included "Pump It Up" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding."
During the end of "Alison," which saw couples slow dancing, he veered into one verse from that other Elvis' "Suspicious Minds."
Then, he abandoned his microphone, approaching the front of the stage for a beautiful ballad. The crowd, bathed in goose bumps, was finally dead quiet.
It was a perfect end to a great show and a perfect way for Costello's fans to pay a quiet, respectful tribute to a true musical legend.