Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Elvis Costello at Carnegie Hall

Declan Patrick MacManus began his musical career in the early 1970s in the folk and pub rock scenes in London, England. He supported himself by working at office jobs to support himself, including at Elizabeth Arden, where he worked as a data entry clerk. By the mid 1970s, he reinvented himself and morphed into Elvis Costello, one of the flagship leaders of the British punk rock movement. Since then, Costello has recorded more than 25 albums, and his music has crossed over to folk, country, cabaret, jazz and other genres. Costello has won multiple awards, including a Grammy Award. Costello and his former band, the Attractions, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Costello performed two solo concerts at Carnegie Hall, tonight being the second night. His set lists were radically different over the two nights, with only a handful of songs making it to the stage both nights. Each night Costello performed for nearly three hours with no intermission, accompanying himself for the most part on amplified acoustic guitars. With a catalogue of hundreds of songs from which to curate, Costello balanced a repertoire of both old and the newer songs, many of which received standing ovations. Costello was a masterful showman, managing a lengthy acoustic set that whispered and roared. All of these songs sounded curiously odd in this stripped bare interpretation, but maintained their dignity as solid songs sung through Costello's distinctive vocals.

Costello began tonight's concert by performing side one of his 1977 landmark debut album, My Aim Is True. "Welcome To The Working Week", "Miracle Man", "No Dancing", "Blame It on Cain", "Alison" and "Sneaky Feelings" were reinterpreted; an angry young man recorded the original versions, but tonight they were more lonesome than rallies. He followed this suite with more than 30 additional songs. "Watch Your Step" and a heavily finger-plucked "Everyday I Write the Book" strayed even further adrift from the rocking original recordings. He later performed a dark and nearly dissonant version of "Watching the Detectives," which featured over-used looping guitar delays. Costello recalled his mentors with cover versions of George Jones' "Stranger in the House" and Nat "King" Cole's "Walkin' My Baby Back Home." Costello, nearly 60 years old, demonstrated his post-punk maturity with "My Three Sons," about his children. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" brought Costello back to his early basics and encouraged an audience sing-along. At the end of the evening, Costello moved to the electric piano and performed two little-known compositions, "For The Stars" and "Couldn’t Call It Unexpected No. 4.″ The final encores included a reworked and electric version of "The Last Year of My Youth," which Costello had written and performed in one day for Late Night with David Letterman, and a rousing "(What’s So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" ended the evening.

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