Dallas Morning News, May 30, 2010

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Elvis Costello joins Dallas Symphony Orchestra
for some jazzy song stylings


Manuel Mendoza

Sometimes a concert is just a concert. But when your favorite solo artist of all time is performing in a context that's rare even for him, then it's a chance to reconsider how he made it to the top of your list in the first place.

That was my win-win situation this weekend when 55-year-old pop chameleon Elvis Costello played two nights with a game Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Under the enthusiastic direction of guest conductor Albert-George Schram, who has worked with the one-time punk rocker before, not every arrangement gelled and not every song choice would've been mine.

I never need to hear the overrated 1989 hit "Veronica" again, though it was funny when Costello referred to his collaborator on the tune, Paul McCartney, as a "Mersey Delta bluesman." The song was part of an up-and-down first set that improved from Friday to Saturday at Meyerson Symphony Center, probably because Costello and his large band had grown accustomed to one another.

Supplemented by a plugged-in trio that included his longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve and jazz drummer Matt Wilson, he entertained the audience by humorously gesturing and dancing as if possessed by the music coming from behind him.

The general strategy was to create harmonious riffs for classical instrumentation and alternate them with the original verses and choruses of his pop nuggets. But what worked even better was rethinking the approach to songs altogether or choosing tunes that lent themselves to a more integrated sound.

That meant jazz — or at least jazzy. In fact, when everything came together for good during the second set, Costello had gradually turned the symphony orchestra into a swing band, most notably on a full-tilt arrangement of his reggae-punk classic "Watching the Detectives."

He surrounded and then extended that moment with gorgeously rounded crooning on "Almost Blue," Nieve's lush new composition "Kairos," Charles Aznavour's "She" and two of his collaborations with Burt Bacharach, the show closer "God Give Me Strength" and the first encore "I Still Have That Other Girl."

Over the years, Costello's place in the pantheon has gained from his experimentations outside pop and rock, this showing of his stylish versatility only being the latest.

Copyright 2010 The Dallas Morning News

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Dallas Morning News, May 30, 2010


Manuel Mendoza reviews Elvis Costello with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fri-Sat, May 28-29, Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, TX.


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