Elvis Costello 2054 Centenary Tour Laxson Auditorium

In the army— “Oliver’s Army” or any other— being at attention and being at ease are totally
disparate. In Laxson Auditorium last Tuesday, Elvis Costello had his packed audience straddling
both simultaneously, as if they were complements. Looking around the auditorium, I found
generations X, Y, and Z all perfectly at ease, relinquishing their full attention to Costello’s lyrics,
music, and storytelling. We were all reclining in the palm of his hand.
“(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” kicked off the evening, followed shortly
after by “Bullets for the New Born King” and “Beyond Belief,” which collectively reminded the
audience of Elvis Costello’s almost inconceivable versatility. The breadth of his voice did not
reflect a man who’s been performing for 40 years. From the rugged delivery of “Watching the
Detectives,” to the silky falsetto injections of “Everyday I Write the Book,” and even to the
melodic whistle solo of “A Slow Drag With Josephine,” Elvis showcased an indestructible vocal
range. Although the experimental breakdown of “Detectives,” complete with layered loop-pedal
effects, lowered the eyebrows of many, overall the audience made their appreciation well known
with no fewer than seven standing ovations.
With each song, the significance of his tour name became more and more evident. “I’m
playing this show for you now,” he explained light-heartedly, “in the off chance that I’m not
around in 2054.” In essence, he was playing in the future, and at the same time he was invoking
the past. In classic Costello style, his performance rested on the idea of not reinventing himself,
while at the same time constantly reinventing himself. He showed that he can add flare, change
the timing, rearrange the structure, and execute all sorts of other tweaks to his songs while
keeping them distinctly in the Elvis realm. His mash up of “New Amsterdam” and the
Beatles’ “You Got to Hide Your Love Away” was a case in point, not to mention his off-the-cuff
rendition of “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home,” or his added musical phrases to the ukulele
version of “Meanest Girl in Town.” In short, his muse continues to transcend time, and the
barriers of his mind remain genuinely elastic.
The energy and sincerity with which he played each song would’ve made for an
exhausting hour for any average performer, but Elvis left “average” in the dust, playing for over
two hours and sustaining his impressive combination of musicianship and affability through the
very end. This included several encores, including a piano tune that had never been released and
a version of “Allison” that gave you the same warm, lasting impression as hearing the original
for the first time.
Speaking of lasting impressions, when 2054 does finally roll around, I have no doubt this
performance will still be resonating. To Chico Performances, and of course to Elvis Costello, a
tip of the fedora is surely due.