Chicago Reader, June 11, 2014

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Elvis Costello

Peter Margasak

When: Wed., June 11, 7:30 p.m. 2014
Price: sold out

Elvis Costello will turn 60 in August, and it’s hard to think of a rock musician who’s been so restless, prolific, and curious throughout such a long career. Over four decades he’s indulged in widely varied stylistic exercises (soul, country, art song, ballet score), collaborated with nearly as diverse a set of songwriters (Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint, Nick Lowe, Paul McCartney), and tried out a bewildering array of backup musicians and instrumental contexts. He’s certainly made missteps, usually when he attempts something overtly highbrow—the 2003 piano-ballads collection North was lugubrious and torpid, and his 1998 album with Bacharach, Painted From Memory, was fatally overloaded. One thing you can say about Costello, though, is that he’s never stumbled by playing it safe. Last year he entered into one of his more unlikely partnerships, making Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note) with the Roots—though as on his best collaborations, he still sounds very much like himself. The lean grooves the Roots developed for Costello underline his love of R&B, and he delivers his often wordy lyrics in a way that’s not too far removed from old-school rap—the hectoring vocals and sinister funk of “Refuse to Be Saved” highlight that quality. Elsewhere he samples himself, repurposing a melody from his song “Satellite” on “Tripwire” and reusing lyrics from a couple older numbers on “Stick Out Your Tongue.” Wise Up Ghost is a bleak, angry record—Costello has always had unkind things to say about the daily ubiquity of mediocrity and cruelty—but the tuneful, uplifting arrangements and imperturbable rhythms are addictive enough to keep me wading through the darkness. Tonight Costello gives a rare solo performance, and with no one else onstage he’ll be free to draw at will from his vast repertoire.

Copernicus Center
5216 W. Lawrence Ave. JEFFERSON PARK
phone 773-777-8898


Chicago Reader, June 11, 2014

Peter Margasak profiles Elvis Costello ahead of his solo concert on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, Copernicus Center, Chicago, IL.


2014-06-11 Chicago Reader photo 01 jo.jpg
Photo credit:James O'Mara


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