Well, you can't accuse Elvis Costello of just playing the hits. During his Tuesday night concert at Nokia Theatre, Costello did get around to fan faves such as "Alison" and "Pump It Up" — but not until he dug deep into albums from each decade of his 28-year recording career.
You could, however, accuse him of letting the music do too much of the talking — for a little while, anyway. Granted, it's hard to complain about this when the songs are as good as opener "King Horse," with its cascading keyboards, or "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," with its chunky funk. But too often, Costello and his band, the Imposters, stuck close to the recorded versions, not stretching things out or messing with arrangements.
The usually chatty Costello was also uncharacteristically reticent, reserving his marks for a few easy-target jokes at Grand Prairie's expense. All this was forgivable, because Costello's voice was at a full, rich peak. Hearing him Tuesday night was to again be baffled by critics who say that he can't sing. And the Imposters — nonstop keyboardist Steve Nieve, muscular drummer Pete Thomas, steady bassist/backup vocalist Davey Faragher — played with gun-at-the-back intensity; especially the typically manic Nieve, who also made wizardly use of such oddball instruments as melodica and theremin.
Every time the show promised to burst open, though, it felt like a tease — until somewhere in the second hour, when a lengthy, grimy version of "When I Was Cruel" segued into "Watching the Detectives," one of Costello's most popular songs.
Even Costello's most erratic albums contain great songs, and that he could cram so much into two hours and still make you miss stuff is a wonder.