timesunion.com: Greg Haymes: 7th November 2013.
TROY – For a singer-songwriter of the extraordinarily high caliber of Elvis Costello, it’s been something of a mystery as to why his recent Capital Region performances have all found him in a supporting role – opening for the Police at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 2008; opening for Bob Dylan at the Times Union Center in 2007 and sharing the stage with jazz pianist Marian McPartland at Tanglewood in 2006.
On Wednesday evening, he finally got the night all to himself, and he made the most of it, serving up nearly 30 songs over the course of his marvelous, two-hour solo concert, an intimate offering that was a perfect fit for the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Dressed in a gray suit and hat with a black shirt, he strapped on his guitar, stepped up to the microphone and launched into the concert with “Poison Moon” – a track that he originally recorded in the mid-’70s but didn’t release until it showed up as a bonus track on the 1993 re-issue of “My Aim Is True.” If nothing else, it was a clear indication that Costello wasn’t going to be playing the greatest-hits game. “Cut loose in a nightmare, cast off in my dreams / If home is anywhere that I can hang my hat, then it’s coming apart at the seams,” he sang.
Indeed, Costello dug deep into his vast catalog of songs, obviously favoring album tracks and rarities rather than his best-known material. Whether he was strumming hard (“My Little Blue Window”) or exhibiting nimble finger-picking (“Beyond Belief”), he seemed totally comfortable onstage in the solo setting. The crowd helped him out by singing along with several selections – the rave-up “Monkey to Man,” the wry “Dirty Rotten Shame” (sung completely off-mic) and?“(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” – and Costello filled in some solo space with some mighty fine whistling (most notably during the Tin Pan Alley-like ballad “A Slow Drag With Josephine,” which he introduced by saying, “This is rock ‘n’ roll like they used to play in Troy in 1922″).
But he also cranked it up. His revelatory rendition of “Watching the Detectives” was more ominous than ever, a bit of looping, a blast of a bull-horn’s siren and a truly nasty, most distortion-laden guitar solo only adding to the creepiness of the punk-noir tale.
Costello also ventured over to the electric keyboard on occasion, adding a spiritual, hymn-like touch to the evening with “Shipbuilding,” “Favourite Hour” and a magnificent reading of “For the Stars,” the latter easily his best vocal performance of the night. And, of course, he offered “Sulphur to Sugarcane,” which name-checks both Albany and Poughkeepsie, and on Wednesday, a shout-out to Troy, as well.
The congenial Costello at the Music Hall seemed to be light years away from his early image as the Angry Young Man of British New Wave, and his music has also developed in so many different directions since then. With such a deep, rich catalog of songs, let’s hope that he drops by again soon to showcase even more of his many musical facets.Elvis Costello
Where: The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 2nd St., Troy
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Musical highlights: The hymn-like “For the Stars” and the unflinching “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror”
Length: Two hours – no opening act, no intermission
The crowd: A sold-out crowd spanning several generations