by Julian Spivey
Elvis Costello left the sold out Gillioz Theater in Springfield, Mo. absolutely mesmerized by the end of his two hour set on Saturday, March 7. Costello poured his heart and soul out for the jam-packed theater, which is a beautiful old movie theater from the silent film era that has been renovated into a concert hall equipped with fantastic acoustics.
Costello sounded terrific during his solo show that saw him perform tunes spanning his entire discography from his very first release 1977’s My Aim is True all the way to his most recent work with The New Basement Tapes, a supergroup formed by the great producer T-Bone Burnett to form unfinished Bob Dylan lyrics into a complete album.
Costello opened up his performance with “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” from his debut album, which was a huge hit with the audience.
He followed with a long string of ballads showing that a guy who started out as a new wave, punk rock type could also make a career out of being a lounge singer. If there was a slight lull in the evening it was at this point, but to be fair Costello sounded exquisite the entire time.
Costello would make numerous instrument changes throughout his set – mostly switching up between different guitars, but he also had a piano on the stage and wowed the sold out crowd with a stupendous version of his 1982 song “Almost Blue” – a song that shows Costello could have also been quite the jazz performer.
Costello seemed to have the audience in the palm of his hand when doing songs that could be considered among his “greatest hits” like “Accidents Will Happen,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Everyday I Write the Book” and a terrifically stripped down version of “Beyond Belief.” This isn’t too surprising as many show up to concerts of someone who has been around as long as Costello has wanting to hear “the classics.”
Some of Costello’s deep cuts from My Aim is True were among his best of the concert. “No Dancing” and particularly “Blame It On Cain,” with accompaniment from opening act Larkin Poe, were incredibly entertaining.
Costello also utilized the incredibly talented sister duo of Larkin Poe – Rebecca and Megan Lovell – for his performances from The New Basement Tapes sessions doing “Hidee Hidee Ho” and “Down on the Bottom.” “Down on the Bottom” was particularly interesting, because it wasn’t a song that Costello did on the album, but rather one that My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James did. Costello’s version is different and a nice take on the track.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Costello’s performance was the giant television set that adorned the stage. Before the concert Costello’s music videos throughout his career played on the television screen to entertain the waiting crowd. Throughout his performance images and poems would scroll across it. The most interesting use of the television set came during one of Costello’s encores when the screen was removed and Costello himself stood inside the television set to perform a handful of songs. This was one of the best portions of the entire concert as Costello jammed to “Pump It Up” to the crowd’s great delight. He also performed fantastic versions of “Ghost Train” and the fitting “TV is the Thing (This Year) before closing out his encore with a fantastic performance of my personal favorite Costello song “Alison.”
The audience wasn’t about to let Costello leave on that note though and he returned to the stage for one more encore. This encore began with a jaw-dropping vocal on “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” with him on piano. He then performed “Jimmie Standing in the Rain,” a newer song from his 2010 album National Ransom, which he said he likes to perform because it always reminds him of his grandfather.
Costello brought Larkin Poe back out to the stage for a rip-roaring performance of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” that was the most perfect way I could think of for Costello to end his show. Hearing the crowd sing along to the refrain “what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?” is one of those utterly unforgettable and epic concert moments that I know I will never be able to forget if I tried.
Costello is one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of the last four decades and it was a true honor to see him in such an incredibly sounding venue. Hopefully everybody gets a similar opportunity in a city near you.