Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Apr 24th 2010 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
"I think I may be in possess of the holy ghost tonight," Costello told fans, three songs into a performance with the Sugarcanes, the six-piece bluegrass ensemble that backed him on last year's 'Secret, Profane & Sugarcane.'
Elvis and the crew do old-school Appalachia with a rock 'n' roll bent, and Friday's set included 'Sugarcane' tunes, country standards, rock classics and songs from various stages of Costello's long, almost comically eclectic career.
He opened with 'Mystery Train,' a song made famous by another guy named Elvis. Costello's not the King, but he did Presley proud, kicking his heels and strumming his guitar like a rockabilly zealot. If Costello's voice has thickened with age, it's also grown stronger and more versatile. In his dark gray suit and cowboy hat, he made a convincing country frontman, one of the many roles he's able to play.
As his 'Sugarcane' tunes attest, he's certainly mastered the genre's thematic touchstones. On 'Down Among the Wine and Spirits,' he sang of drinking. With 'My All-Time Doll,' it was heartbreak. 'Condemned Man,' about a guy headed for the electric chair, is stark and fatalistic, the kind of song Johnny Cash might have covered on one of his latter-day Rick Rubin records. Told he'll soon be getting 10,000 volts, Costello's narrator sneers at the judge: "I said, 'Make that 25.'"
Among the Costello rock chestnuts to get the bluegrass treatment were 'New Amsterdam,' 'Alison,' '(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes' and 'Blame It on Cain.' With 'Everyday I Write the Book,' Costello and the band transformed what some consider a pop trifle into an aching ballad, slowing the chorus and adding a three-part harmony.
During 'River in Reverse,' from the 2006 record of the same name, Costello wandered away from the microphone, challenging the audience to quiet down enough for him to sing without the aid of electronics. It's a trick he often employs during his regular rock 'n' roll shows, but Friday night, as he stood on stage roughly as old as the music he was referencing, it was more than mere gimmickry.
Elvis Costello on AOL Music