Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 6, 2002

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Costello not acting his age —
and that's a good thing

Chris Riemenschneider

Though he opened his concert with a song about his 45th birthday, English busy-body Elvis Costello spent the rest of Wednesday night acting as if he were 22 again and waiting for the end of the world at the Orpheum in Minneapolis.

The singer's latest CD, When I Was Cruel, is his most steaming, excited rock album since his classic late-'70s heyday, and he gave a performance to match. In a word, the show was seething. The opener "45" could have referred to the beats per minute for the first half of his set.

Costello, now 47, spent much of the '90s undoing his old, feisty image by working with an opera singer, string quartet and schmaltzy pop crooner Burt Bacharach. In the end, his attempts to keep himself interested left many fans uninterested.

Wednesday's show was a 180-degree turnaround to his earliest style, but with almost all new material.

In addition to hyper new songs, Costello and his three-piece band — with longtime Attractions mates keyboardist Steve Nieve (keyboards) and Pete Thomas (drums) plus Camper Van Beethoven's Dave Faragher on bass — threw in ferocious versions of "Waiting for the End of the World" and "Watching the Detectives."

The energy coming from the stage wasn't matched in audience reaction until midway through. Costello mellowed for "Brilliant Mistake" and the melodic singalong "Tart," bringing the crowd more into it before revving things up again for "Dust," "Tear Off Your Own Head" and encores of "Pump It Up" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding."

When Costello tried to end on a mellow, Bacharach-derived note, several fans broke the mood with whoops and hollers. Seems they had finally caught up to the singer's frenzied pace from earlier, much to his amusement.

Costello's opener was none other than actor-filmmaker Billy Bob Thornton, who released an album last fall that has gone as unnoticed as his adaptation of All the Pretty Horses. Thornton's voice was anything but pretty, sort of a mixture of Leonard Cohen and Ernest Tubb. And his six-piece Zen/roadhouse band seemed overambitious.

Through all that, though, Thornton's dry, intelligent hick persona shone through in edgy songs such as the heroin confessional "Private Radio," and in his storytelling. Talking about actor Jim Varney's DeLorean sports car (kept on blocks) he quipped, "Never give a hillbilly money." In Thornton's case, though, his investment in music is not a total wash.


Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 6, 2002

Chris Riemenschneider reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters and opening act Billy Bob Thornton, Wednesday, June 5, 2002, Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis.


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