His aim was true, though his songs were blue.
British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, a former new-wave cult hero who launched his career with the 1977 album My Aim Is True, delivered another A-plus Seattle performance last night at the Paramount Theatre.
No longer performing with his longtime band, the Attractions, Costello was joined by longtime pianist Steve Nieve, a former Attraction who has become a kind of songwriter-soulmate of Costello's.
Dressed in nearly matching black suits, the two musicians performed a long, generous show filled with tender, melancholy songs about fractured relationships and lost love.
Backed by Nieve, Costello began with such favorites as "Temptation" and "Accidents Will Happen" before offering several songs from Painted From Memory, the career-reviving album he recorded last year with Burt Bacharach.
"We sat at the piano side by side, fighting over the white keys and the black keys," Costello said of his songwriting collaboration with Bacharach.
"You know that song 'Ebony and Ivory?' It's not true."
The current tour with Nieve began in Europe and is now touring the United States.
At the Paramount, Costello was in great form, singing so beautifully that the crowd often broke into applause in the middle of a song.
Painted From Memory was given a special emphasis early in the show. Among the selections was "Toledo," "What's Her Name Today?" (about a serial heartbreaker) and the lovely "This House Is Empty Now," a tear-jerker about a ruined marriage.
The audience sang along to "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," an old favorite that Costello performed with passion. The bittersweet "I Hope You're Happy Now" was more subdued.
While on the road, Costello and Nieve have been working on new songs. Costello performed one of them, "You Lie Sweetly," about two lovers facing each other in the morning after "the glory of night has fled."
A segment in the middle of the show featured Costello alone on stage, performing some of his earliest songs and commenting (sometimes humorously) about the state of pop culture, TV programming, youth violence, Bill Gates and that other Elvis.