It was maybe four songs into the show at the Bronco Bowl Tuesday night that singer-songwriter Elvis Costello made the confession that he was under the weather.
"I've got to be honest with you," he said, "I've been in my sickbed all day."
Up to that point, he had surely fooled a good number of the approximately 2,500 folks in attendance. This revelation came after vibrant renditions by Mr. Costello and his band, the Attractions, of "Man Out of Time," "Waiting for the End of the World" and the alluring "Clown Strike," on which Mr. Costello traded sensuous, almost jazzy riffs with keyboard player Steve Nieve.
This show began the Western leg of an American tour supporting his new disc, All This Useless Beauty. But the show was not restricted to new material; Mr. Costello was exceedingly generous with beloved oldies, dating all the way back to his gracious encore of Watching the Detectives, his earliest hit, and finishing off with the great Nick Lowe song "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding."
Only during "Accidents Will Happen" did his malady became more apparent, as he shaved off high notes and almost, but not quite, stayed in tune. But since most of the audience was lustily singing along, it didn't seem to matter.
With himself as role model, Mr. Costello has ushered a generation of music fans from the heated anger of youth through a reluctant acceptance of maturity and adulthood. Anyone who can make you feel like it's OK to be a grown-up gets the kind of hero status Mr. Costello is accorded — evident in the audience's respectful silence and repeated standing ovations offered at the end of every song.
If his vocals wavered, his wisecracks didn't. As he prepared to dig into "God's Comic," he played a few notes which he identified as the lost chord from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem.
"That's the one he's been looking for," Mr. Costello said, before veering off into a fantasy about God hanging out "with the Holy Spirit and the other guy," watching MTV and trying to tell the difference between Alanis Morlssette and Dave Grohl, leader of the Foo Fighters and former drummer for Nirvana.
"It's all part of this evil plan by Warner Brothers to get two records out of one," he said.
During the show's acoustic center, Mr. Costello was chatty to the point of intimacy — but then halfway through "Oliver's Army," the rhythm section returned, the pace picked up and the band was blazing.