From now on, anyone who says all rock reunions are a bad idea will have to admit they weren't at last night's Elvis Costello show.
He was back on stage at the Kingswood Music Theatre with his legendary band, the Attractions — keyboardist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Bruce Thomas — as part of their first tour together in eight
Simply put, Costello was back to where he should be. After years of puzzling and sometimes trying career moves, as he dabbled with chamber music, TV soundtracks and unsatisfying pop duets and writing tuneless thumb-suckers, he was finally admitting that people like him best as part of a top-notch rock 'n' roll combo, ripping off cynical one-liners about the absurdities of love and life.
It was the dynamic return of ElMo Elvis, the passionate prince of pain and his band who rocked El Mocambo in March, 1978, during Costello's first North American tour, a show that helped forge his legend.
Just as he did at the ElMo 16 years ago, Costello and the Attractions last night played as if it was their last-ever show before facing a firing squad.
They rolled out more than 30 songs in their two-hour, multi-encore show, including such crowd-pleasers as 'Watching The Detectives," "Alison," "Accidents Will Happen," 'Pump It Up" and many more.
The crowd just wouldn't let him off the stage when he got to these songs late in the show, and Costello was eager to please them, the sweat rolling off his brow as he snarled his lips and slammed his electric guitar.
"I can hear you out there!" Costello roared, delighted to be standing before us — and a happy Elvis is not something we can always expect.
But he still refuses to spoon-feed his audience, and that made the night so special. The band is touring behind a great new album, Brutal Youth, and it played most of the songs off the disc before getting to the golden oldies.
Nobody seemed to mind, nor should they have. Nieve's keyboard flourishes on "Pony Street" and "Clown Strike" make the songs instant Costello classics, and so does Pete Thomas's lean-and-mean drumming on "20% Amnesia" and "Sulky Girl." while Bruce Thomas's in-the-pocket bottom work is great on any tune.
They've welded the sound of the past with the sound of now, a feat neatly demonstrated with the segue from new tune "13 Steps Lead Down" down into oldie "Radio, Radio."
The melodious new love song "London's Brilliant Parade," where Costello switched to acoustic guitar, was testament to his mature songwriting and the band's ability to work with him even in the more pleasant moods.
Winnipeg's Crash Test Dummies opened the show, on the strength of a second album that has sanded off their rough edges and put them over bigtime with the U.S. soft rock market — they're even outselling Costello down south.