Elvis Costello may have a classic songbook that stretches back 26 years but he wanted to make one thing perfectly clear last night at the Hummingbird Centre: "We don't do requests." This clarification came after some audience members had clumsily spent the first part of his two-hour concert shouting out song titles during some of the show's more delicate pauses despite the fact that the British singer-songwriter was doing just fine without their guidance.
In fact, last night was probably the most vocally strong I've ever heard Costello — or maybe it was just that I could hear him so well in the intimate and acoustically perfect surroundings — as he expertly crooned his way through both more obscure songs and familiar hits, the latter for the most part dramatically rearranged.
Thus you had a strangely slowed down version of the normally blistering "Pump It Up," a more playful and sped-up rendition of "Everyday I Write The Book" and a downright jazzy, finger-snapping run-through of "Watching The Detectives."
In between, Costello and The Imposters — Attractions keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, along with new bassist Davey Faragher (Cracker) — never failed to entertain.
It was more like a complete and utter seduction really as Costello — dressed in head-to-toe black save for red cowboy boots — coerced the crowd into singalongs on tunes ranging from "Tart" — from 2002's When I Was Cruel — to the Beatles' "You Really Got A Hold On Me."
Costello was equally at his intoxicating best on both pretty and caustic pop ballads like "My Dark Life," "In The Darkest Place," "So Like Candy," "Toledo" and "Indoor Fireworks," and the more uptempo Dust 2," "I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)" and "I Hope You're Happy Now."
Since Costello played here a little over a year ago at the Molson Amphitheatre, he's become engaged to Canadian jazz-pop pianist Diana Krall and he'll follow up When I Was Cruel with North, an album said to be influenced by her since it features 11 piano-based ballads.
All I care about is that he returns to perform again, and soon, because, frankly, there are few showmen like him as he so capably demonstrated during the show-ending "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding."