For a night at least, Salt Lake City had a new favorite Elvis — Elvis Costello, who once used the name Napoleon Dynamite to record the album Blood & Chocolate in 1986. He also made a strong case for being the valley's favorite Napoleon Dynamite.
Fittingly, he used a rousing version of one of the Blood & Chocolate songs, "Uncomplicated," to get the Kingsbury Hall crowd to its feet, clapping along.
And it wasn't the last time Costello had the audience standing and actively participating in his show. He led them in a spirited sing-along of "Monkey to Man" (the audience acquitted itself nicely, too) and even climbed down into the orchestra-pit seats to serenade a female fan with the tear-jerker "Almost Blue."
The concert marked the first time Costello has performed in Utah, and hopefully it won't be the last. The British-born musician's brilliant, two hours-plus performance featured more than 30 songs from his impressive catalog, drawing heavily from his newest CD, the Americana-inspired The Delivery Man, as well as his 1977 debut My Aim is True.
At times the 50-year-old Costello infused sly covers into the songs, singing the chorus to "Fever" during his composition "Inch by Inch." And "Alison," one of Costello's signature tunes, morphed into "Suspicious Minds," the hit by that other Elvis.
As always, he received solid accompaniment from his backing band the Imposters, which includes keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas — both veterans of the original supporting band the Attractions — and bass guitarist Davey Faragher.
Faragher also provided back-up vocals on most of the songs. Costello teased him, saying that country artist Emmylou Harris would be joining him onstage for "Heart Shaped Bruise," one of two songs they sing together on The Delivery Man.
Costello concluded the evening with a haunting version of "The Scarlet Tide" from the Cold Mountain soundtrack. He sang the song's last verse without a microphone — demonstrating how acoustically sound the venue is, and also showing off his still-terrific vocal strength.
If there was a disappointment, it was that none of the set came from his underrated 1986 album King of America, which is in a similar vein as his more recent efforts. But that's just a minor complaint.
Opener Tift Merritt sounded pleasant enough, if unmemorable, on such songs as "Tambourine," which made her seem like an alt-rock cousin to Sheryl Crow.