Elvis Costello didn’t wear red shoes. Costello greeted the nearly sold out crowd Sunday night at The Sands Event Center in a red fedora hat. For this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, an artist who’s beginnings started in the original punk movement and transposed into New Wave, Costello, was prepared to take his fans on a journey of his iconic career.
Notably, from the twenty-three-song set (plus two songs in the encore), the majority of songs performed originated from his 1982 release, “Imperial Bedroom”. Hence, the tour name, “Imperial Bedrooms and Other Chambers”. While the show kicked off with “The Town Where Time Stood Still” (“Punch the Clock”), the second song, “The Loved Ones” set the tone as the “Imperial Bedroom” soundtrack was sprinkled in throughout the set.
But it’s not to say that Costello hit songs were omitted. From the third song, we’re wisked back to almost the beginning of his career with “Accidents Will Happen” (“Armed Forces”) and later “Moods for Moderns”.
Set behind the band was a large screen which from the beginning of the concert flashed a brilliant abstract art show, almost Picasso-esque in depiction of Costello. During “Watching the Detectives” (“My Aim is True”), the stage was dark, the large screen was the only visual, as it displayed old detective movie billboards.
As he stood centered between his two back up singers, Costello slowed down “Allison” (“My Aim is True”), and added more soul and harmonies. The crowd rose to their feet, and gave Costello his first standing ovation.
Spinning the shuffle wheel, other favorites included, “You Tripped at Every Step” (“Brutal Youth”), “You’ll Never Be a Man” (“Trust”), “Shabby Doll” (“Imperial Bedroom”), “Kid About It” (Imperial Bedroom”), and “Shot With His Own Gun” (“Trust”).
Costello was joined on stage with The Imposters, his band that has been with him since 2002, which also includes three members of The Attractions, bassist Davey Faragher, drummer Pete Thomas, and keyboardist Steve Nieves. Nieves smoothly moved between keyboards and a baby grand piano throughout the night, and performed masterfully on the baby grand in “This House is Empty Now” (“Painted From Memory”), Costello’s collaboration with Burt Bacharach in the late nineties.
The set closed with “Every Day I Write the Book” (“Punch the Clock”) in which Costello roused the audience to sing and clap along. The crowd finally got to hear the song they chanted for the majority of the show, “Pump it Up” (“This Year’s Model”), as the first song in the encore, the keyboards swirled, while Costello punctuated the tight lyrics. The evening closed with “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” (“Armed Forces”).
This world tour is limited to twelve U.S. dates, and while the concert ran a little over two hours, it couldn’t possibly come close to representing over twenty-five years of Costello’s recording career, as it spans over several genres of music. Cramming in well over twenty songs, some shows closer to thirty, it doesn’t leave much room for cheeky banter. Most songs flowed from one to the other without Costello’s commentary. While the set list slightly varies from town to town, hit songs like “Veronica”. “Radio, Radio”, “Oliver’s Army”, “Red Shoes” and “The Other Side of Summer” were absent in Sunday’s performance. Understandably, there are only so many songs that can be squeezed into a show.