East Troy — The angry prophet of new wave is starting to go to seed. These days Elvis Costello looks like an aging pool hall denizen.
Physically, the Elvis who took the stage Friday night at Alpine Valley is almost unrecognizable from the angry rebel who played Alpine just a couple of years ago on the Spike tour. Elvis has sprouted a beard, ponytail, shades and gained about 30 pounds.
Vocally, he still has the same edge, but the overall intensity level seems to be cut half a notch.
There is a larger issue of whether such a facile lyricist, with what really is a cult audience, belongs in big sheds like Alpine anyway.
The vast hillside just swallows the words up, and he doesn't come close to selling the place out anyway.
The issue of whether he was right to dump the Attractions is still being debated. Individually, it would be hard to find fault with the veteran session men surrounding him.
One sweet little irony is that the gray-haired bass player is Jerry Scheff, from the real Elvis' band.
Whatever his talent, this band is at a loss to duplicate the more experimental material from Costello's new Mighty Like a Rose album.
The toxic waste surf song "Other Side of Summer" loses almost all of its Beach Boys parody flavor without the studio resources. More skeletal bits of paranoia such as "Soul Like Candy" fair much better.
The BoDeans opened with a 40-minute set that drew heavily on their excellent new album, Black and White.
Their sound is more layered, but just as hooky and melodic as ever. One deft touch was a mix of their own "She's a Runaway" with Del Shannon's classic oldie about a similar fugitive.