TORONTO — From a passionate scream to sexy whisper and everything in between.
Last night's concert by Elvis Costello and his band The Imposters at the Molson Amphitheatre had it all, with the exception of a sold-out crowd.
Unbelievably, only 6,500 people — 1,500 short of a sellout — ventured out to see the celebrated British singer-songwriter-guitarist who blazed a path to glory some 25 years ago with his 1977 blistering New Wave debut My Aim Is True.
Costello — backed by Attractions keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, along with new bassist Davey Faragher (Cracker) — began his show belting out the vibrant new rocker, "45," from his latest album, When I Was Cruel.
And three encores and two hours and 15 minutes later, the seduction was complete as the 47-year-old Costello ended the night crooning the sultry, slightly psychotic ballad "I Want You" to a besotted audience who reluctantly left the venue wanting more.
Compared to the last time that Costello played in Toronto — in 1999 at Massey Hall, accompanied solely by Nieve in what was an incredibly low-key concert — last night's performance was a revelation.
Costello — in tinted black framed glasses with his hair closely shorn — managed to be both charming and funny while brimming with passion and anger, not to mention an incredible vocal range.
He outright encouraged audience participation, particularly on a trio of great new songs, "Spooky Girlfriend," "Tart" and "Alibi," getting the crowd to sing along in a call-and-answer format.
Not one to shy away from his new album, When I Was Cruel was represented by no fewer than nine songs, while to the delight of many fans My Aim Is True material came right off the top with "Waiting For The End Of The World" and "Watching The Detectives" as songs number two and three.
Granted, there was a lot more cheering and clapping than dancing going on last night but eventually people in the front section got on their feet and stayed there for "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and "Radio, Radio."
Other set highlights were the new song "When I Was Cruel No. 2," which proved to be a truly transporting experience, and old rockers "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," "Accidents Will Happen," "Mystery Dance" and "Pump It Up."
The stage itself was stripped down save for the band and what appeared to be a tiny bust of Beethoven behind Nieve.
Turns out, they didn't need the inspiration of Ludwig van. It was already there.