Smart move by Elvis Costello to introduce the intimate songs of the brand new Warners disc All This Useless Beauty in intimate settings such as the Troub. From a marketing standpoint, Costello gets to take these songs — all of which were written for other artists — to his core audience and industryites with the simple backing of his acoustic guitar and Steve Nieve's opulent pianistics. Everyone's left with the feeling Elvis has been revitalized. The Troubadour show was one of a handful of promotional appearances Costello is making before Memorial Day, all pointing to Warners' boosted emphasis on Costello's profile. While it should grease the wheels for the summer tour with the Attractions that will stop at the Universal Amphitheatre, increased returns at retail remain in doubt.
Costello's acoustic program — more than two hours long — played up adulthood and reflection, sliding in the old faves ("Alison," "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes," "Accidents Will Happen" and "Watching The Detectives") to keep interest piqued with steel-sharp intensity. His voice rested and assured, Costello pumped the evening with vigor, humor and a pile of wordy songs that bordered on a Brechtian revue. The songs of Useless Beauty, though, have greater commercial appeal than most of Costello's recent outings.
Greatest revelation Tuesday was the introduction of "God Give Me Strength," a number composed with Burt Bacharach for Allison Anders' Brill Building fable, Grace Of My Heart. The song is a pure throwback to Bacharach's great '60s work with Hal David, starting with a simple and drifting melody before climbing an emotional mountain that Costello's voice reached with strength to spare.
From the new disc, Costello supplied a stunning one-two punch with the title track and "It's Time," a pair of tunes that deserve a shortcut to familiarity and a prominent place in one of rock's greatest canons of the last 20 years.