Elvis Costello @ Merriam Theater 11/10

Philadelphia City Paper: Chris Sikich: 11th November 2013.

Elvis Costello mentioned early on in his Merriam Theater solo show Sunday that he was going to be singing about love and its flipside, deceit. Over a span of more than two dozen songs, including two encores, Costello mapped out his many journeys to the center of the heart and its betrayal in his 37-year career and gave the rapt audience a master class in songwriting and guitar-work.

With five guitars and a keyboard at his disposal, Costello briskly maneuvered through his catalog with creative interpretations and surprises. He opened with “Jack of All Parades,” a song from 1986’s King of America that he’d previously performed only 14 times. And without a backing band, he frequently looped his guitar as layering to complement his live guitar, which worked to great effect on “Watching the Detectives” and “I Want You.” In the former, he brought a fresh pacing and the blare of a police siren, while the latter featured a virtuoso electric guitar flourish that still pulses through this critic’s ears.

Costello barely had to suggest the audience to call out their requests, as they were coming left and right. As he took a requested detour in the set, as he indicated by activating a detour light, he sat down and let loose a glorious rendition of “Indoor Fireworks.” The crowd was also quite game to provide a lovely chorus of “I knows” for “Accidents Will Happen.”

The night closed with Costello playing “Tripwire” from his recent collaboration with The Roots, Wise Up Ghost, that slid right into a surprisingly understated “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” Yet another standing ovation sent Costello and the crowd off into the November chill, their love affair still intact.