Elvis Costello made a trip to Eugene's McDonald Theatre on Saturday night, April 16, as a part of his "Detour" tour. The solo tour featured Costello deconstructing his songs and taking a new approach to each.
What made this show different than the standard concert was the storytelling. Costello is well known as a brilliant songwriter, but almost every song at his concert was accompanied by a story that was crafted as carefully as the song. It felt like an intimate conversation between Costello and the sold-out crowd.
The audience was attentive and silent for the entirety of the concert. Every dropped cup and chair squeak pierced the still sound. Often, Costello would step away from the microphone and sing a capella, showing off both the power of his voice and the venue's great acoustics.
Throughout the show, he thanked his father and grandfather, both musicians, for paving the way to his career. His father was a radio star and a performer in the sixties, and even performed at the Royal Variety Performance show when John Lennon made his infamous "rattle your jewelry" comment to Queen Elizabeth.
Costello recalled his first professional gig, playing guitar for his father as a "17-year-old know-it-all." The pianist intentionally gave him the wrong notes with which to tune, and right before the curtain rose, his father turned to him and said, "Don't fuck this up." When he realized his guitar was out of tune, he killed the volume and proceeded to play a convincing air guitar.
The funniest story of the night was about a cab driver whom Costello had briefly fallen in love with during an early U.S. tour. They decided to drive to Mexico on a whim ("before there was a wall or anything"). The breaking point of the relationship was when she said she wanted to find a radio station that played side two of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety. He said he then returned to his motel room and wrote "Accidents Will Happen."
He even managed to sneak in a joke about Donald Trump's little hands.
Alone on stage for most of the night, Costello stood in front of a large old school box TV with a screen that showed videos before the show, and photos throughout. For the second (of three) encore, the screen parted and Costello performed "Allison" and "Pump It Up" on a mini stage behind the curtain.
Costello invited opening act Larkin Poe to join him for the first encore and "(What's So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding." The sister-duo from Georgia began the show with a 30-minute blues set, then provided beautiful backing vocals, mandolin and slide guitar for Costello.
In two hours and a quarter, Costello covered a large body of musical and emotional material. Songs ranged from Get Happy's "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" to songs about the devil, war and family. Hopefully he detours to Eugene again soon.