After ignoring the Northwest for so many years, Elvis Costello seems to be pulling out all the stops to win his regional fans back. He started with a private afternoon show at Seattle's Cloud Room piano bar, where he did a tremendous eight-song acoustic set.
After beginning with Van Morrison's "Domino," he went on to play material off his new album, All This Useless Beauty, joking that he was starting a residency at the bar and would be playing there for the next three months. But instead of a bar, he hopped down to the Showbox where he played a two and a half hour set of new tunes, forgotten chestnuts, and classics.
Backed only by piano player Steve Nieve, this was more than Costello unplugged: He was unbridled and unrestrained, working hard on every number to put across the melody and lyrics.
The new material, particularly "Complicated Shadows," "The Other End of the Telescope," "You Bowed Down," and "Shallow Grave," came across much better in concert because Elvis put forth the effort to sell it to the audience.
He was funny, he was charming, and he was in a great mood, acknowledging that though it took him 15 years to return to the Northwest (referring to his electric show two years ago at the Seattle Paramount), he planned to come back in the summer with the full band (maybe Portland's due will come then). As a final wet kiss, he finished with "Alison" and "Watching the Detectives," both of which had the crowd singing along in almost carnal joy.
He came back for three encores, doing a couple of numbers each time, and even that didn't seem like enough. Was this really the same fellow who turned white noise on the crowd at his 1979 Seattle Paramount show? What a difference 17 years can make.