At the South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, a couple of weeks ago, Elvis Costello told the audience at a question-and-answer session that he doesn't want to become "an oldies act."
Not a chance.
Anyone who saw Costello's show with the Imposters later that night at a packed La Zona Rosa, one of the biggest nightclubs in a city of big nightclubs — or anyone who saw Costello's show a year ago here at Benaroya, for that matter — knows well that the avatar of the '70s British New Wave movement is as current and hip today as he was then.
At the Austin show, which, at more than two hours, was probably the longest performance at SXSW, Costello emphasized cuts from his raw, bluesy, Americana-influenced new CD, The Delivery Man, which is one of the best of the nearly two dozen albums he's released — and that's saying a lot.
The 10 songs he played from the new disc compared favorably to, and sometimes blended seamlessly with, his most popular songs, such as "Radio Radio," "Watching the Detectives," "Pump It Up" and "(What's So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?"
While some in the crowd were getting tired as 2 a.m. neared, and the club's personnel were getting antsy because that's closing time in Texas, Costello was still a live wire onstage. He ended just in time for closing, moving away from the microphone to sing the last lines of "The Scarlet Tide" a cappella.
In addition to the generous length of the set, and its mix of tunes from throughout his 28-year recording career, the show also highlighted Costello's new embrace of the guitar. He mostly strummed it in the past, but this time he played a bunch of solos. He actually played two during a lengthy "Clubland."
At the Benaroya show a little over a year ago, Costello sang a cappella several times, taking advantage of the symphony hall's superb acoustics. It was one of those rare concerts where a great artist in one of his great periods played in a great hall.
It'll be hard to beat that at his show Thursday at the Paramount, except for one thing: all those great songs from The Delivery Man. He actually played that title song at Benaroya, but he played 10 of its 13 songs in Austin. That may make the Paramount show as unforgettable as the Benaroya one.
Opening is Sondre Lerche (pronounced "LER-ka"), a baby-faced singer-songwriter-guitarist from Norway with a breezy, Beatlesque style.
A few of his songs (which he translates from Norwegian) have a finger-snapping pop style reminiscent of one of Costello's favorite songwriters (and former collaborator), Burt Bacharach.