Outdoor amphitheaters can be intimidating for some artists, but leave it to Elvis Costello to make them intimate. The British singer, who just relaunched his duo tour with longtime pianist Steve Nieve, is not only playing unplugged, he's even been performing one of his encores without a microphone – which should help make his Friday stop at a scaled-down Starplex (only 5,500 seats, no lawn) feel up-close and personal.
Mr. Costello is "between albums," meaning that he's free to follow his instincts rather than promote his product. As a result, he's been test-driving such new compositions as "Alibi" and "45" and surveying his 22-year career with stirring rearrangements of "Little Triggers," "I Want You," "Talking in the Dark," "Alison," and "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea."
As he showed on last year's Painted From Memory, his collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Mr. Costello has matured into an astounding vocalist, but his cunning catalyst is main attraction Mr. Nieve, whose nimble-fingered classical flourishes add taste and texture without making the music sound stuffy.