For two hours Tuesday night, Elvis Costello captivated more than 1,000 people in the sold-out Rococo Theatre with a brilliantly staged, played and sung 29-song performance
That performance was primarily solo, with Costello playing a bunch of acoustic guitars, pulling out a hollow body electric for a few and moving to the piano for a couple more. He was joined by Larkin Poe, the sister duo that opened the show, on a half-dozen songs that closed the main set and again for three songs on the encore.
There’s no writer other than Bob Dylan that has a catalog of songs as expansive as Costello’s. And he mined it for hits, like the opener “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” and far lesser known songs, like “Lost on the River #12,” the next to last song.
And, like Dylan has done for decades, Costello dramatically reworked some of them in performance — giving “Lip Service” a country feel, turning “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” into a dark piano ballad and turning “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” loud and declarative.
In a similar vein, “Brilliant Mistake” wasn’t written for mandolin, resonator guitar and female backing vocals. But that’s what it got — and it worked, demonstrating, with the rest of the changes, the songs’ versatility and greatness.
A true showman as well as a great singer and songwriter, Costello’s performance was beautifully paced — he moved to the piano and broke out the hollow body and a loop pedal to do “Watching the Detectives” at just the right times.
And it was smartly staged with a giant console TV prop behind him that, on the encore opened its screen/curtain to reveal Costello with electric guitar at the mic, for three songs, begun by “Pump It Up” and capped with “Alison.”
I’ve seen Costello a dozen times over the last 30-plus years and Tuesday’s show was one of the best and most entertaining of those shows.
Tuesday’s show was Costello’s first Lincoln appearance. But it may not be his last.
Early in the show an audience member shouted out thanks to Costello for coming to Lincoln and playing a small venue. Costello responded “This is a great place. I’m going to come back here if you’ll have me.”
Anytime, Elvis, anytime.