It's hard to believe that this concert didn't sell out. Anyone who felt Elvis Costello wouldn't have been worth seeing without the Attractions last Sunday night made a serious mistake. His concert was a remarkable event; clearly displaying him as perhaps the best singer/songwriter alive today. This is not to slight the Attractions though, for they are, in their own right, a fantastic band.
A lonely T-Bone Burnett made a valiant effort to please a restless, Elvis-hungry crowd, but failed. Burnett was just not capable of single-handedly capturing such a distracted audience and, not appearing to care about this very much, proceeded to have a good time singing and clowning around. The solo Burnett was probably a very conscious decision on Elvis' part, knowing that a full band might be awfully hard to follow alone.
At any rate, Elvis' performance was simply, excellent. He accompanied himself with either an acoustic or electric guitar or an organ, and only briefly, during a wonderful "Just A Memory" did he play the piano. Elvis seemed to enjoy himself throughout. The concert was peppered with humor, and while much of it consisted of the usual jabs at America(ns), it was all as warmly received (especially when he referred to the "spaceman in the Whitehouse" during "Peace In Our Time," a new song) as it was delivered. Further proof of Elvis's satisfaction with his audience were the nine songs that made up his three encores.
What marks Elvis' outstanding talent more than the music 'twill, is the sophistication of his lyrics; from social illness to "emotional fascism" to brilliant tongue-in-cheek parody of his own earnestness. This solo setting was the ideal showcase for the lyric side of his music. The acoustics in the gym were superb and as a result everyone, no matter how familiar they might have been with the music, could thoroughly understand and enjoy all the material. This only added to the tremendous stage presence Elvis maintained. There were moments of near silence which is a remarkable thing when one considers how many people were in attendance and how many were standing.
The show's 26 songs encompassed all the stages of Elvis' career, along with a good number of cover songs. If you attended the concert you know what he played and if you didn't you're probably not overly interested. Nevertheless, a few of the particularly high points were "Stranger In The House," "Say You Wouldn't Care," "Girl's Talk," "Allison," "Ship Building," "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down" and a hilarious Special AKA song entitled "The Best Thing About You Is Your Girlfriend." Also worthy of mention were the handful of new songs included, especially "Only Flame In Town," "Worthless Thing" and "Inch By Inch."
Great acoustics, great music, great Elvis. All told this was a very special concert. The powers that be should be commended for arranging this one.