Favoring rockers over ballads, English-born singer-songwriter Elvis Costello pumped it up for fans Sunday night at the Paramount Theatre.
The sold-out show was packed with high-energy songs that reflected Costello's lyrical brilliance. Concertgoers responded with loud applause, multiple ovations and several spontaneous singalongs.
Backing the singer-guitarist were the Imposters, a new band featuring drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve of Costello's long-running former band, the Attractions, and a new bassist, Davey Farragher.
The punk and new wave icon kicked off his two-hour-plus show with "45," a bittersweet rocker from When I Was Cruel, his first new album in seven years. It's also his highest-charting album, reaching No. 20 last week on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Songs from When I Was Cruel were the focus of the show, which steered clear of greatest hits in favor of lesser-known gems such as "Man Out of Time" and "Lipstick Vogue." He avoided the human jukebox trap, but perhaps disappointed some fans by skipping such favorites as "Alison," "Accidents Will Happen" and "Veronica."
The concert was Costello's second Seattle appearance in a week. Last Wednesday, he performed a free solo "in store" concert for about 800 fans at the new Easy Street Records on Lower Queen Anne.
Dressed in black from head to toe, Costello pushed Sunday's show well past 11 p.m. with three encores and a surprise visit from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck.
Many older songs — "Watching the Detectives," for example — featured revamped arrangements and a few electronic effects.
A new song, "Spooky Girlfriend," was introduced as "a modern morality tale" about "a weaselly show-business type."
"Isn't it Sunday?" Costello quipped. "Here's the sermon."
He introduced another new song, "15 Petals," as a love song — but more a "throw-you-around-the-room love song."
Costello's eccentric lyricism came through in such quirky new songs as "My Little Blue Window" and his new single, "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll's Revolution)": "Those plastic features / You could make somebody a pretty little wife / But don't let anybody tell you how to live your life." The latter song, which closed the main set, also featured an eerie entertaining theremin solo by Nieve.
Costello kicked off the first of three encores with "Alibi" — a mellow, self-reflective rocker from When I Was Cruel — and ended it with an incendiary "Pump It Up."
During the second encore, Buck (in perhaps his first local performance since his air-rage trial) played guitar on an explosive version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding."
The third encore featured the humorous "Episode of Blonde," another new song, and a stunning version of "I Want You," a wrenching song about love gone awry.
Opening the concert was East Coast rock band American Hi-Fi, which performed "This Is the Sound" and "Beautiful Disaster" from a new album due this summer. Despite an energetic performance, the band couldn't get the audience on its feet.