Citizensvoice.com: Kristen Gaydos: 26th November 2013.
Give Elvis Costello a guitar, and he'll weave a spell destined to keep the audience captivated.
The musical musician kept it simple but stunning during an low key, intimate solo set Monday at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre.
Wearing his signature hat and glasses, the Grammy-winning artist came out and got down to business as soon as the lights came down by belting out "Possession." Red, green and blue light columns dressed up the black backdrop, while signs reading "ON AIR" and "DETOUR" flanked Costello on stage. He then took the audience of almost 1,200 on a musical journey, with stops at deep cuts and hits from his two dozen-plus albums from a set list crafted on the spot.
Throughout the stripped-down set, he shared a steady stream of skillful strumming and poetic lyrics that demonstrated why he's spent more than 30 years on stages around the world. For his second number, Costello went back to his 1979 album "Armed Forces" for a powerful rendition of "Accidents Will Happen," getting the audience to sing along at the end.
"You'll know all the words in this song. Feel free to do whatever you please," Costello said, sliding into "No Dancing" from his 1977 debut album, "My Aim Is True."
"I'm just going to sing anything that comes into my head tonight," Costello said, prompting audience members to shout out suggestions. "We'll have an opportunity later, don't you worry. We're going to have a jiving contest."
He continued his mesmerizing set with the slow, wistful "He's Got You," a take on the Hank Cochran-penned tune "She's Got You." The audience hushed as he played, responding with enthusiastic whistles and applause as the song ended.
Saying he had been thinking about fathers and daughters, he then gave the audience "You Little Fool," from the 1982 album "Imperial Bedroom." That criticism of a girl who waste herself "on a horrible brutish man like me" prompted Costello to write "Pony St.," a dialogue between a mother and a daughter from 1994's "Brutal Youth."
"I thought that was a pretty good riff," he said during "Living in Paradise," from the 1978 album "This Year's Model."
He followed that with "Pardon Me, Madam, My Name is Eve," a 2008 "Momofuku" track about, Costello said, "that awkward moment when the first wife meets the second wife - particularly if she doesn't know about it yet."
Of course, the staples "Alison" and "Watching the Detectives," from "My Aim is True," highlighted the show, played to a reverential and appreciative audience that gave Costello a standing ovation after the main set. During the encore, he switched to the keyboard for "Almost Blue."
Earlier in the night, Costello also shared a song he wrote with "a knight of the realm," Sir Paul McCartney, called "Mistress and Maid," restarting it charmingly when he didn't get the reaction he wanted. He kept up the quips throughout the evening, introducing a beautiful rearrangement of "Everyday I Write The Book" as a hit "that ruined his reputation as an embittered outsider."
"I'd like to introduce my special guest for the evening. It's me," he said, taking a seat at the front of the stage for a jaunty cover of "Walking My Baby Back Home," a major hit for Nat King Cole.
He kept up the amiable patter throughout the night, endearing himself to the audience. The singer/songwriter even complimented the Kirby Center's architecture.
"It's beautiful. You should keep it like it is now," he said.