In front of a packed house at the Warfield on Thursday, Elvis Costello and the Imposters fired out a no-nonsense barrage of 30-plus songs, delivered one after another virtually without pause.
While Costello’s last two visits to the Bay Area saw him exploring New Orleans R&B with Allen Toussaint and playing country-tinged music with a pickup band at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festvial, this one was just Elvis and the Imposters (featuring two-thirds of the original Attractions) doing their thing, with no new album to promote except a couple of recent repackages of the old stuff.
Until a flurry of hits at the end ("Radio Radio," "Pump It Up," "Peace, Love and Understanding"), the focus was on lesser-known material from the Costello catalog, along with nice renditions of two Lennon-penned Beatles tunes, "All I’ve Got to Do" and "Hey Bulldog."
The more familiar tunes were often presented in dramatically new arrangements. "Alison," performed solo on acoustic guitar, was a high point, with Costello crafting a new melody for the song’s second verse. Other reinventions didn’t work so well: "Chelsea" lost its snaky riff and pretty much everything else that was cool about it.