Elvis Costello reaches deep for innovative Chicago Theatre set

Chicago Tribune: Bob Gendron: October 30th 2016.

Elvis Costello is at the point in his career where he could've strolled into the Chicago Theatre on Saturday, gone on autopilot and satiated the sold-out audience with a greatest-hits set. A few of his slightly elder peers recently pursued that approach earlier in the month at California's Desert Trip festival, where the price of nostalgia started at a few hundred dollars. For Costello, following such a script would be too easy — and boring.

Rather than conform to predictability, the restless 62-year-old singer continued the innovative streak he's ridden for almost four decades. Digging deep into his back catalog, he revisited a majority of 1982's "Imperial Bedroom" — an album renowned for its ambitious arrangements and stylistic diversity. The London native and his band, the Imposters, wisely ignored the original order and played the material according to mood. They also drew on other originals with similar themes of domestic malaise, deception, sabotage and shame.

Recognizing irony can lend to levity, Costello disguised much of the bitterness and disenchantment in crafty melodies that often framed the words with cheerful settings. Two female backup vocalists helped give songs a more soulful, less orchestrated feel. Stripped of large-scale studio ornamentation, fare such as "… And in Every Home" and "The Long Honeymoon" found their grand sweep downsized to miniature form. In terrific voice, Costello crooned and serenaded, cried and shouted, taking stock of unspeakable relationship ills while unfurling lyrics with encyclopedic depth.