His aim is still true.
When Elvis Costello and the Attractions kicked off their first U.S. concert in eight years (and their first Seattle gig since 1981) last night at the Paramount, they made it clear that it was going to be a ripping night of old and new.
Appearing on a no-nonsense stage and rarely straying from his rigidly energetic stance, the black-suited Costello ran through a fierce trio of songs from the late '70s before breaking into "Pony St.," a characteristic rocker and the first of a dozen songs from Brutal Youth, the new disc that reunites Costello with his original band.
It was only the second date of their current tour (which opened Tuesday in Vancouver, B.C.), but the two-hour set blistered with the synergy of a tightly tuned foursome. Costello focused on a nonstop selection of greatest hits and fresh goods, roaming freely from the welcomed familiarity of "Man Out of Time" and "Mystery Dance" to the lyrical elegance of new songs, including the tender "Too Soon To Know" and "This Is Hell," an instant classic (dealing in part with the trappings of success) that found Costello bathed in moody red light.
Opting to forgo backing vocals, the Attractions (bassist Bruce Thomas, drummer Pete Thomas and ace keyboardist Steve Nieve) knuckled down for a flawlessly paced assault. Costello himself shifted from acoustic to blazing Fender with contagious confidence.
Canada's Crash Test Dummies opened with a punctual 50-minute set from their breakthrough album "God Shuffled His Feet," and while Brad Roberts nicely fronted with his bass-baritone vocals, the set peaked when backup singer/keyboardist Ellen Reid tore into a gutsy vocal with the jesterish Benjamin Darvill on harmonica. By the time the Dummies made way for Costello, the sellout crowd had already earned a sound return on their investment.