Elvis Costello cooked up a love feast Sunday night at Mercer Arena.
The diminutive British rock star vowed to play "until we don't have any more songs to play." What he delivered was a generous 2½-hour show, including four encores, that was high on energy and emotion. (Opening was rock band Sleeper.)
It was a special night for everyone. A buoyant, good-humored Costello sang from the heart and played his heart out.
More than 6,000 fans turned out for the concert, a Bumbershoot event that required a separate $20 ticket.
The few tickets that remained before the weekend sold out quickly amid news that Costello's Seattle show would be his last with the Attractions, his longtime band featuring bassist Bruce Thomas, drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve.
For the final performance on his tour with the Attractions, Costello opened with a powerful rendition of "Man Out of Time." After a moving "Big Tears," the rapt audience gave him the first of many ovations.
Dressed in a dark-gray suit and black-and-white polka-dot shirt, Costello was relaxed yet eager to make the show a memorable experience. It was his second Seattle appearance since May, when he performed a concert at The Showbox as well as a private set at the Camlin Hotel's Cloud Room.
At Costello's disposal were a dozen guitars, each carefully tuned by a very busy guitar "tech" at the side of the stage. One of the electric guitars still had a price tag dangling from its neck.
Costello, a former punk and new-wave cult hero, reached into his past for many songs, though several from his exceptional new album, All This Useless Beauty, help anchor the show. Among them were "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone?" "Little Atoms," "Other End of the Telescope" and "Distorted Angel," which he dedicated to a guardian angel who made him self-conscious during lovemaking: "I was taught to believe you were looking down on everyone/ And your benevolent face is beautiful to gaze upon/ Now I just don't know who to tell to go to hell."
A number of songs were featured in complex medleys that highlighted the talents of keyboardist Nieve, with whom Costello toured earlier this year. One of the early medleys began with "13 Steps Lead Down," from his 1994 Brutal Youth album.
"Party Girl," "Veronica" and a boisterous "Oliver's Army" — each filled with richly detailed lyrics followed. Often the audience sang along.
Late in the main set, Costello revved things up with a medley of "Pump It Up" (with Nieve on accordion) and "Just About Glad."
Costello's first encore featured the hook-filled "Accidents Will Happen" and a song from the new album, "Complicated Shadows."
When the audience clamored for more, Costello returned for a second encore featuring the touching new song "Other End of the Telescope" and "Alison," a song also recorded by Linda Ronstadt.
Among the most moving songs in the show's final moments was "I Want to Vanish," which Costello delivered with quiet, dramatic flair.