Home Music Elvis Costello, Facing 57, Rocks Like It’s 1979

Elvis Costello and two Attractions–Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas–with one Imposter, Davey Faragher–put on the hottest, tightest rock show anyone’s seen in a long time on Friday night. To warm up, Costello jumped into the Secret Sisters show at Irving Plaza, did a song, then went to Madison Square Garden to do three numbers opening for The Strokes as a surprise. Then the piece de resistance, the big show at the Gramercy Theater, a former movie house that is really a shithouse of a rock club. It was like old times. Three performances on April Fool’s Day, just like in 1979.

The quartet kicked in right at 11pm, with a floor full of adults standing like sardines as if it were the Ritz circa 1979, and a bunch of less intrepid folk in seats angled upward in what used to be the movie theatre’s balcony. It is a strange place, where dried food is stuck to the seats. It was perfect. Costello and cohorts just whipped into “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and “Uncomplicated” from 1985 like they were slicing down trees with electric saws. “Possession”– 1979-80– with the great verses:

“Now you’re sending me your best wishes/Signed with love and vicious kisses/You lack lust, you’re so lacklustre/Is that all the strength you can muster
“So I see us lying back to back/My case is closed my case is packed
I’ll get out before the violence/Or the tears or the silence

There were almost no breaks during the two hour set, not even for applause. Three songs from “Trust” (1982) made cut for this one off show before Costello and band start a tour that brings them back to New York in late May: “Clubland,” “Luxembourg,” and “New Lace Sleeves” (“good manners and bad breath will get you nowhere”). “Radio Radio”–ever so prescient 30 years ago–was rapturous. “Watching the Detectives,” “So Like Candy,” “Beyond Belief,” “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” “Oliver’s Army,” “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding,” “Pump it Up”– were each refreshed and energized by the band’s attack, Steve Nieve’s punctuating keyboards embroidering melodies he knows by heart, and so on. Even the less well known songs–“American Gangster,” “Stella Hurt,” “Monkey to A Man,” “National Ransom” came alive, Special guests were the Secret Sisters, who helped Costello on “Josephine.”

In the audience: Costello’s famous wife, Diana Krall, and Mary Louise Parker, a smattering of friends and family, and some shocked young people raised on Britney, NSync, and Justin Bieber who should heed these words: “Radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools trying to anesthetize the way that we feel.”

A classic night. Send more. We need it.


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