After almost 30 years of making records, Elvis, it seems, is far from dead — Elvis Costello, that is.
To the crowd at the Beacon Theater on the upper West Side last night, Costello was king. He and his band, the Imposters, treated fans to a roller-coaster set that inspired more standing and sitting than a Baptist sermon.
Apart from a few yells at stray fans who stood when the pack collectively agreed to sit, the loyal crowd seemed thrilled to be part of the intimate performance.
"We must have seen him 20 or 30 times — all in New York," said Marc Knispel, a 44-year-old computer programmer. His wife, Judi, 41, pointed out that the crowd, like Costello, seemed to be aging. "Even we feel young here," she said.
There was a recognizable face or two in the house, too. Actor Robert Wuhl, best known as the star of the HBO series Arli$$, was eagerly awaiting the show in the lobby with other fans.
"I won't cheapen the real fans by putting myself in their category," Wuhl said. "I'm minor league. I'm double-A compared to them."
In his grand tradition of collaboration (with the likes of Burt Bacharach, T-Bone Burnett and Paul McCartney), Costello himself introduced a familiar face, legendary blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin, and the two shared the stage for a song.
Costello touched on his hits, including "Radio Radio" and "Watching the Detectives." The title track to his latest album, The Delivery Man, came off as sweet and endearing, although he belted it out in his signature vocal style, sliding up to nail the notes.
Costello seemed pleased with the crowd's response, too. He launched into a story about the days before he played ornate theaters like the Beacon. Instead, he holed up at a place called the Lonely Hearts Club, he said. "Everybody who goes to a Lonely Hearts Club is incredibly shy, and they didn't clap."
The audience erupted — as they did in bursts all night — in a round of cheers.