Last Night: Elvis Costello at Nokia Theatre

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Elvis Costello
Nokia Theatre, Grand Prairie
September 2, 2009

Better than: just about anything else on my plate on a Wednesday evening

Pretty close to 8:15, the lights inside the Nokia Theatre went down and onto the stage strode legendary singer/songwriter Elvis Costello, along with his current collaboration of sidemen, the unit dubbed The Sugarcanes.

As Costello and his drum-less sextet launched into "Mystery Train" (one of five cover tunes), many in the late-arriving audience struggled to find their seats, unfortunately causing several ounces of over-priced beer to be wasted on the floor of the venue.

But the large numbers of tardy concertgoers certainly did not seem to distract Costello nor his talented ensemble. The singer mixed several nuggets from early in his lengthy career in with material from his recent roots rock effort Secret, Profane and Sugarcane.

Played in the same rootsy style as his new songs, Costello's older material sounded fine with banjos, mandolins and accordions doing the work The Attractions used to do. "Mystery Dance," "Blame it on Cain," "Alison," "(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" all thrilled the relatively large audience, even if the songs lacked a bit of propulsion.

More interesting were two new songs--and I'm not talking about songs from the new album, but actually tunes Costello has written on this tour. "Borrowed Dress," a beautiful duet with guitarist Jim Lauderdale, was quite possibly the best song of the evening. The cover choices dazzled, too; among them were the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" and "Happy" from the Rolling Stones.

Costello's voiced sounded powerful throughout the entire two-hour show, and his banter with the audience seemed authentic and polite. By the end of Costello's 20-plus-song set, I felt like I just had a fine meal with my favorite uncle.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
My favorite Costello album is King of America and I was a bit disappointed that he did only one song from that record, the lovely "Indoor Fireworks." Considering that King of America is an effort in a similar rootsy vein to the new album, the exclusion of a song like "Brilliant Mistake" was peculiar.

Random Note: When Costello told the crowd, "I've heard Grand Prairie is a cool place to be," someone in the audience yelled, "No it isn't."

By The Way: Some woman brought her guitar-slinging toddler on stage during "Alison" and there were some groans of discomfort as Costello sang "You let that little friend of mine take off your party dress" to a four-year-old.

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