Last night, Elvis Costello & the Imposters managed to make Anaheim a lot less sterile at the House of Blues, touring in support of Costello’s 30th studio album titled “Look Now,” released last month. Costello, whose finger has been stirring the diverse musical stew since the ’70s, has never been one to repeat himself, making his one of the most diverse musical catalogs influencing everyone from Prince to Radiohead. He has a lot of material to draw from so one can only imagine the difficulty in whittling it down to a 29-song set.
They opened with “This Year’s Girl,” “Honey Are You Straight or Are You Blind” and “Radio Radio,” during which Costello was experiencing some technical difficulties. The band left the stage while a few techs huddled over a monitor for a few minutes until Costello and composer/keyboardist Steve Nieve returned — the perfect opportunity to perform “Accidents Will Happen” from 1979’s “Armed Forces.”
Between songs, Costello was a witty storyteller. And sometimes a cryptic one. He seems to have an ability to weave a tale in front of us and then bring its soundtrack to life with little effort. The band performed “Photographs Can Lie” a Costello/Bacharach number, and then Costello gave a verbal spotlight to his backup singers Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee, who carried “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter” (and many more of the songs) with a power highlighting his wordier tracks with female swagger.
Long-time drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher also made this six-piece feel very simpatico, even with a load of history and well-worn baggage in tow. One of the most noticeable things about the show was the vast majority of fans soaking it in sans cell phone. Call it generational, but these diehards were really watching as Costello changed pace, shifted grooves and kept a tight grip on the short hairs of the public imagination.
Kuroi and Lee joined Costello front and center to bring an amalgam of jazz-funk-soul-gospel-pop energy to “Alison,” “High Fidelity” and “Every Day I Write The Book.” Costello closed the set with “Pump It Up” and finally the Brinsley Schwarz cover of “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”
Full setlist here.
Elvis Costello & the Imposters perform again tonight at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.
Photos by Michelle Shiers