Costello's 'Centenary Show' captivates Mondavi crowd

Sacramento Press: Barry Wisdom: September 30th, 2012.

Photographs by Barry Wisdom

Man comes into this world alone and he exits it alone. So it is only fitting that Elvis Costello is celebrating an anticipated 100th anniversary on Earth sans Attractions, and free from Imposters with his wholly solo "Centenary Show 1954-2054."

Costello, who turned 58 last month, acknowledged in remarks to a Mondavi Center audience Friday night that the tour's name could be confusing to some – especially to American audiences who are more familiar with the term "centennial" than the UK version, which might be mistakenly read as the "Cemetery" tour.

There was no mistaking how freaking talented, funny, smart and downright personable Costello is as he took center stage at Jackson Hall to play a delicious pastiche of early radio hits, obscure B-sides, new songs, and soulful standards sung in loving tribute to his wife, the jazz artist Diana Krall.

Referring to Krall not by name, but only as "my gal," his otherwise strong and clear voice became hushed as he finished a subtle, jazz-flavored "All or Nothing At All," a standout track from Krall's 1997 album "Love Scenes."

"I miss her madly ... I miss her madly," he said softly as he set up to sing another pop classic from the American Songbook, "Walkin' My Baby Back Home."

But it was the more-familiar Costello standard, 1977's "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes "with which the UK-born Declan Patrick MacManus opened the stripped-down, but impossibly entertaining show.

Joined onstage only by a quintet of his favorite guitars, a Kawai keyboard and a few microphones (one for standing, one for sitting), Costello shared his music, a few laughs and – most notably – himself over the course of some two hours, including a more-than-generous encore that ultimately ended with pal Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love and Understanding."