Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 12, 2002

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British new-waver of yore back with
acid tongue and quick wit

John Soeder

Of late, Elvis Costello has broadened his horizons in cahoots with the likes of easy-listening maestro Burt Bacharach and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter.

But last night at Tower City Amphitheater, the former Declan MacManus put aside his highfalutin' aspirations and got back to what he does best: rock 'n' roll.

This year's model was a welcome throwback to everyone's favorite four-eyed British new-waver of yore — acid-tongued, quick-witted and ready to pump it up.

The guitar-playing singer-songwriter came on strong with "45," the first song on his fine new album, When I Was Cruel. The frenetic tune made for a bracing opener in concert, too.

Costello, 47, reached all the way back to his 1977 debut for the next number, "Waiting for the End of the World."

His sharp backing unit, the Imposters, included two-thirds of Costello's longtime group, the Attractions -keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas. The low end was shored up by bass player Davey Faragher.

They played with the urgency of a garage band trapped in a burning garage. "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," "Accidents Will Happen," the reverb-drenched, reggae-inflected "Watching the Detectives" and other vintage Costello songs sounded vital as ever.

"Tart," "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll's Revolution)," "Spooky Girlfriend" and other new tunes were cut from the same catchy cloth.

Costello's achey-breaky croon cracked in all the right places. It did the heart good to see him strangle his six-string at the end of "15 Petals," an unhinged love song.

Fans clapped along during "Clown Strike" and greeted the first few bars of the tender, timeless "Alison" like an old friend.

Clearly, Costello's aim is still true. He's sure to earn a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination later this year — and he's bound to be among the next class of inductees.

Opening act Billy Bob Thornton made a name for himself as an actor, not as a musician — with good reason, as it turns out.

The rail-thin, chain-smoking Thornton has a deep, serviceable voice. He did right by the Hank Williams gem "Lost Highway," revisited as a duet with Costello.

Too bad Thornton's original material was fairly run-of-the-mill. He was considerably better in "Bandits."

Copyright 2002 All Rights Reserved.


Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 12, 2002

John Soeder reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters with opening act Billy Bob Thornton, Tuesday, June 11, 2002, Tower City Amphitheatre, Cleveland, OH.


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