Omaha World-Herald: Kevin Coffey: 4th March 2015
LINCOLN — If only they were all this good.
With only several instruments scattered about the stage as well as his voice and his songs, Elvis Costello delivered a career-spanning, breathtaking set that did away with a big band, elaborate staging or anything fancy and simply let his talent shine.
In front of about 1,000 at a sold-out Rococo Theatre, Costello was at his finest. He ditched a band for a primarily acoustic set of 28 songs that he performed like a master, taking those gathered through volumetric and emotional highs and lows.
Take two of the evening’s most moving songs: “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” was created more than 20 years apart from “45,” but he played one after the other. The former he performed seated behind a baby grand piano and crooned into the microphone like he was living the lyrics of the song. For the latter, he cranked up his hollow-body guitar and cranked out a rocking jam.
Despite differences in delivery, both of his compositions hit home hard.
Costello’s songs don’t need to be filled in by backup singers or a wall of sound. He can do it all on his own, and any musician or writer should follow him on tour and take notes.
Earlier, a bespectacled Costello nonchalantly strolled onstage in a blue suit and white hat. Other than some early, polite applause and some thunderous cheers whenever he’d bring a song to its close, the audience left Costello in respectful silence as if they’d scare him off if they got too loud.
It left Costello to trade between several acoustic guitars and a piano and to play songs that sampled his radio heyday as well as more modern selections.
“Everyday I Write the Book,” which he mentioned he really hates, veered far from its familiar synthesizer pop-laden version as Costello vigorously picked out a melody on acoustic guitar and quietly sang along.
On “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror,” Costello traded the original’s piano and horns for an acoustic guitar, but he sang every note like it was his last night on stage.
For “Watching the Detectives,” he played that hollow body matched with looping pedals that allowed him to play rhythm guitar, lead and bust out some solos while the audience shouted the chorus.
Between songs, he made humorous quips, told stories about his father and introduced songs with tales of their writing. He also heaped praise on Lincoln.
It’s so lovely, this hall. It’s beautiful,” he said. “Being as I was here in Lincoln, I thought I’d only sing songs of love and fidelity. Then I thought this would be a short set.”
On his way to playing more than two hours, Costello performed three separate encores. For the first, he was joined by the women of Larkin Poe, the Georgia-based duo who opened the show with some beautiful harmonies.
Though they’re quite talented, Costello’s vulnerability was stripped from his vocabulary-heavy songs when he was joined by the two women. It was instantly less intimate.
After several songs with the duo, they left the stage before Costello returned again — this time with his signature Fender Jazzmaster.
“Pump It Up” came first, fast and hard, and brought people to their feet to dance and shout. He finished that encore with a very loud rock version of “Alison” that had the audience fill what little space there was with their voices.
For his final encore, Costello offered four more songs with more help from Larkin Poe.
Costello and his companions ended with “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” which saw members of the audience reaching out to him and screaming the words.
As he did after most songs, Costello smiled and took a bow as he was showered with cheers and at least one desperate cry of, “I love you.”
“I love you individually and as a group,” he said. “Goodnight. God bless you, and we’ll see you again.”