Chicago Theatre, Chicago
Monday, December 20, 2010
You would have been forgiven, on a cold and snowy winter’s night, if you chucked your Elvis Costello tickets and just hunkered down in front of a crackling fire. Never mind the Bears were also playing, nothing else seemed to matter to the 3,500 who saw Costello at the Chicago Theatre Monday night.
The show was billed as a career-spanning, acoustic holiday show, but it was really extreme Costello. The occasional fan would have been lost. He rocked back between his many musical genres but, at times, things tended to drag. Make no mistake, he earned your ticket money, worked darn hard for it. He had the flop-sweat going before the start of the fourth song and didn’t sit down ’til his 10th tune. But, unless you had an intimate knowledge of his 33 years of songmaking, parts of the show seemed to run into each other.
He opened with “(Angles Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” in his trademark hat and grey suit. There was nothing flashy about his presence, alone on stage, with six other guitars and a few spots to illuminate the simplistic setup. Costello was mostly all business with little banter, even though the crowd at times wanted to carry on a conversation. While he did explain he “used to hate” “Everyday I Write The Book,” “until someone else told him how to play it,” he made it sound as if he doesn’t mind cranking it out after all these years.
Through out his two-hour-plus, double-encore performance, he touched on 29 songs, mostly his own but a few others tossed in to shake things up. While this wasn’t a “dance in the aisle” crowd, it did make it easy to duck out for a plastic cup of chardonnay without having to throw elbows to get back to your seat. He pumped his new album, National Ransom, by playing the title track before closing with “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?”
Picture the night as a rock ‘n’ roll hall of famer in a packed, double-deck coffeeshop playing what ever comes into his head. Most of the songs you recognized, some you liked, others had a touch of weird in them. But, this guy in the black-rimmed glasses can really bang that guitar.
– Brian Ormiston
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