You want more Elvis? OK! You didn’t think Arts DEVO was going to stop blathering about Elvis Costello just because his marathon solo show at Laxson Auditorium happened more than a week ago (Sept. 23) did you? It probably goes with out saying that I and Mrs. DEVO (and my uncle and aunt there with us) thought Elvis was rad. That’s how these nostalgic “An evening with …” shows normally work: Everyone there is already a fan, and the shared experience of hearing our guy do the thing that we already love—like chew his way through “Watching the Detectives” (a particularly noisy and awesome version)—is pretty much guaranteed to be rad to us. Add to that the fact that I got to reminisce over beers at The Banshee before the show with my uncle, the guy who introduced me to My Aim is True and This Year’s Model when I was 9 years old, and a good night was a no-brainer.
With the stage set with a big “20” and “54” lit up on either side, and a sign in the middle advertising the “Centenary Tour” (a celebration of the artist’s 100th year, about 42 years early), Costello hopped around his repertoire, exchanging one guitar for another for a mostly acoustic retelling of his 35-year career. Some of the faves were just bashed out with few to no dynamics —“Suit of Lights” and a rushed “Our Little Angel” (both off 1986’s King of America) come to mind—while some, like “(What’s so Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” (the Nick Lowe cover that Costello now owns), were glorious in their bashed-outness. But some of the classics were re-imagined and re-energized, like the looping “Watching the Detectives” (the first tune he ever recorded with The Attractions) and probably the most satisfying, a reworking of Costello’s first U.S. hit, 1983’s “Every Day I Write the Book,” which, unencumbered by its murky faux Motown-ness, came out much brighter and sweeter.
He’s 58 now, but Costello’s voice was as strong as ever—still distinct and infused with several different shades of character, most notably on the incredible “Brilliant Mistake” (also off King of America) which along with his mash-up of 1980’s “New Amsterdam” with The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” was my favorite song of the night.