Elvis Costello | 04.13 | California | Photos

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Elvis Costello :: 04.13.10 :: Arlington Theatre :: Santa Barbara, CA

Elvis Costello :: 04.13 :: Santa Barbara
Elvis Costello, in his trademark geeky, large rim glasses and stylish hat, played a solo show in front of an enthusiastic crowd, as part of the U.C. Santa Barbara's Arts and Lectures concert series. Costello is riding a huge new wave of success, due to his popular television series Spectacle, now in its second year. The elegant and intimate Arlington Theatre was the perfect venue for this morphing musical magician to showcase over three decades of songwriting genius. The set, lasting a little over two hours, included 24 songs, ranging from his first American hit from 1977, "Watching The Detectives," to songs from his most recent album, Secret, Profane and Sugarcane. This newest work is a co-production with T Bone Burnett, who Costello has collaborated with since the 80s.

Costello is one of the most prolific songwriters in modern pop music, in the company of legends such as Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney (the latter of which he has also collaborated with). But even more impressive is this master musician's chameleon ability to reinvent his music time and again. His catalog of at least 44 albums includes forays into punk rock, pop, jazz-fusion, acoustic folk, country, and even classical music. Each new tour reveals a new take on his older songs.

The solo show at the Arlington was no exception, reworking older material into new masterpieces, while blending it with his newer work. Armed with an army of no less than ten guitars, each with a unique sound, he covered the gamut of his musical library. As satirical as ever, the older but ever feisty icon bantered with the adoring crowd. At one point, he introduced his guest star, which was himself sitting at a separate acoustic set up with yet another guitar, creating a sound reminiscent of a bygone era. Songs like "Sulphur to Sugarcane" from his new album sounded like they could have been played by an early 20th century minstrel show. Later, Costello completely unplugged his guitar and sat on the edge of the stage billowing, sans microphone into the crowd. The eerie, quiet notes created yet another new layer of sound as they bounced off the theatre walls. Then, in an instant, Costello switched to an electric guitar back on the main stage. He commenced a rock fusion version of "Watching The Detectives," complete with digital sound loops so that he could play lead over his own rhythm. It was a sound more reminiscent of Joe Satriani than the angry young man of 70s punk-pop fame.

With each new song Costello bounced about the stage, cajoling the crowd to sing, clap or dance along to classic old songs or quirky new material. The enthusiastic response included a standing ovation after nearly every song. Both the exhausted crowd and beloved performer seemed content as the marathon show came to an end, dripping with mutual admiration. Elvis Costello may have been making hits for several decades, but in no way does he appear to be "A Man Out of Time."

Elvis Costello :: 04.13.10 :: Arlington Theatre :: Santa Barbara, CA
45, Either Side of the Same Town, Veronica, Down Among the Wine and Spirits, Brilliant Mistake, Bullets for the New Born King, Everyday I Write the Book, Bedlam, Jimmie Standing in the Rain, Slow Drag with Josephine, Watching the Detectives, Radio Sweetheart / Jackie Wilson Said, God's Comic, River In Reverse, Alison, In Another Room
E: Sulphur to Sugarcane, Lucky Dog, Man Out of Time, All or Nothing At All, The Spell That You Cast, One Bell Ringing, So Like Candy, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

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[Published on: 4/16/10]

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