I'm not going to get too sentimental, as he would say, but Elvis Costello gave a superb performance at the folk festival Thursday.
Costello, with an acoustic guitar and his deceptively supple voice as his only instruments, gave a most satisfying overview of highlights of his long and substantial career. He may be primarily known as a pop artist but his songs stood up remarkably well when reduced to their core elements, a testament to the high quality of his songwriting.
An audience of close to 10,000 at Gallagher Park heard old songs, new songs and unexpected treats, such as a cover of John Lennon's early Beatles classic "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and a murderously comical number called "The St. Stephen's Day Murders," written with The Chieftains' Paddy Maloney.
Old Costello classics? The masterfully literate lyricist and his remarkable raw voice cut through the chilly night air with "Alison," "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," "New Amsterdam," the viciously acerbic "Shipbuilding," which Costello wrote in protest against the Falklands War, and the first song he ever recorded, the countryish "Radio Sweetheart."
Strangely, he got a huge reaction for "God's Comic," a rather obscure track from his Spike album. A passionately sung "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," from the same 1989 album, was another
Among the strong new tunes Costello showcased were "All This Useless Beauty," written for June Tabor, and "Complicated Shadows," written for Johnny Cash, who apparently rejected the idea of recording it, and a tremendously bittersweet reflection on a lost chance at romance called "Just About Glad."
The cheering after Costello's encore was tremendous. He last played in Edmonton 17 years ago, in 1978.