Elvis Costello apologized to fans before ending his Michigan Theater show after 40 minutes of music.
It was clear from his first notes on "Jack of All Parades" that something was very wrong. He struggled to sing both high and low notes and labored through the song. Elvis announced that he was suffering from an illness and would try to press on to finish the show.
But at the end of the third song, "Accidents Will Happen," he announced, "sorry, this isn't going to work." He assured the crowd that he didn't want to cheat us and would see that we got our money back. With that he gave a wave and walked off stage.
The stunned crowd began to stir, unsure what to do. The house lights didn't come on so most stood at their seats. A security guard at side stage told us he was very sick and probably wouldn't be coming back out.
But after a couple minutes, Elvis did walk back onto the stage accompanied by show promoter, Rick Franks of Live Nation Entertainment. Franks called Costello a "trouper" for trying to perform, given the severity of his illness. A doctor had treated Elvis earlier in the day to help drain his throat.
With Franks at his side, Costello said that anyone who wanted a refund could get one, and they would schedule a make-up show for us, but he would press on and sing as much as possible tonight.
After the break, Costello's voice sounded much improved and he belted through early classics like "Watching the Detectives" and "Watch Your Step." He also performed "Come the Meantimes" from his 2013 collaboration with The Roots; "Ascension Day" co-written with Allen Toussaint; "Poison Moon," a song by Elvis in his late teens; and "Radio Sweetheart," another early song included on the Rykodisc reissues of My Aim Is True.
Elvis then introduced an accompanist, himself, and sat down for two quiet songs. The first was "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," which Costello said he likes to sing when far from home. The second, "Ghost Train," followed a story about performing as a youngster with his father's band in Blackpool, England, and includes characters he met during that experience.
Elvis then stood up and apologized for not being able to sing all the songs he had planned. With that, he announced one last song and played a short version of "Alison."
With a wave and apologetic gestures, he walked off and the show was done.
During his Blackpool story about playing with his father's band, Elvis said his dad would be embarrassed to hear him performing this poorly, but proud he was making the effort. I think most fans were likewise appreciative of Costello's effort and look forward to hearing him again in full voice.