On October 22, 1999, a crowd of approximately two thousand gathered in the Blockbuster-Sony Music Entertainment Center in Camden, NJ, to enjoy what was a fine performance by Elvis Costello.
His first song was a new compositio n for an album by Costello and Steve Nieve, formerly of the Attractions. The sound of this song, "Alibi Factory," was uniquely different from the Elvis Costello of old.
After a mere four songs, he invited the crowd to come to the stage, so that everybody could be seen and appreciated by the artist formerly known as MacManus. This gesture was thoroughly appreciated, and feverishly taken advantage of by those unfortunate few who owned seats in the back of the theatre. Costello was in his usual form as he joked and played to the crowd throughout the concert. His wit was sharp and voice crisp, even on the rare occasions it cracked during the challenging high notes incorporated into his songs by Burt Bacharach from the Painted by Memory tour.
People were excited and enthusiastic during his rock songs, and quietly moved during his more somber ballads. "I Want You" was one of the most popular songs played, as were "Alison" and "Watching the Detectives." He changed everything for "Green Shirt" and put together a sound which was adored by the crowd. Songs which were previously choked by poor 80's production now had a chance to breathe.
This new stripped-down approach to music was used for "Inch by Inch," which was produced on the over-synthesized Goodbye Cruel World album. His new style is highly acoustic and allows songs to flourish without an over-abundance of instrumentation. This different sound seems to be a preview of more to come from Elvis and Steve Nieve. Steve Nieve often banged harshly on his grand piano, and on more than one occasion was adored by the crowd while he played a delightful solo.
Elvis Costello is admired by critics, and looked upon as rebellious by anybody who owns two of his albums. He is not a stranger to challenging people to accept his new styles of music. Sound is key to any Costello album, and he is often the reasoning behind any new tour. Every album is different, as is the case with Costello playing country, rock, with the Brodsky Quartet or even trying something so new that it has yet to own a label. If you have been in a shell over the summer, or have yet to see two of the summer's most popular movies, then perhaps you still do not know exactly who this man is. However if you have seen Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me, then you may recognize the man singing "I'll Never Fall in Love Again". Even if you missed that multi-million dollar movie, it is possible you heard his voice during the opening and closing credits in The Runaway Bride.
In the end all were happy, as Costello played for two-and-a-half hours straight with five encores. Each encore was followed by chants and cries for one more, and most were answered. His last encore lasted for seven songs; at one point he looked to his watch and said, "What do you want to hear?" The crowd answered, as did he as he strayed from his usual set into playing the controversial anti-war song, "Oliver's Army."