Elvis Costello solo show sparkles at Louisville Palace

The Courier-Journal: Jeffrey Lee Puckett: 18th June, 2014

Elvis Costello’s solo tours in recent years have been constructed around themes that change from night to night, depending on the singer’s mood. His options are legion, given the 30 albums from which he has to draw inspiration.

But there are certain ideas that have consistently surfaced over those albums, and they all have to do with the havoc that can be wrought when two hearts and lives collide. Costello has a gift for illuminating those dark corners.

Tuesday night at the Louisville Palace, his theme was “A Life in Exile,” which proved to have a couple of meanings. It was occasionally meant literally, a reflection of the life imposed upon a traveling musician, but far more often it had to do with hearts in exile.

That was made clear early with a stunning version of “Either Side of the Same Town,” from 2004’s “The Delivery Man.” The song, a pure Southern soul lament that Costello sung with an unhinged passion, explores the worst kind of exile: one where you’re not alone, but instead doomed to coexist with a person who no longer cares.

Costello explored a different kind of lovelorn exile with “Veronica,” a deceptively peppy song about a woman whose life was frozen in time after the man she loved died in battle. And on early songs such as “Watching the Detectives” and “Little Triggers,” frustrated partners fume as their lovers’ attention wanders.

Given that Costello was alone on stage the night’s theme had added resonance, but it was tempered by his warm, funny stage presence. He also proved a gracious guest by bringing out a pair of Louisville musicians in Jim James, of My Morning Jacket, and Brigid Kaelin.

Costello first teamed with Kaelin a few years ago at the Palace, and she again played accordion on a few selections, including “A Slow Drag With Josephine.” James met Costello earlier this year when they partnered with Marcus Mumford, Rhiannon Giddens and Taylor Goldsmith to put music to previously unheard Bob Dylan songs (“Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” will be released later this year).

After Costello and James dueted on the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home to Me,” all three ripped through a rollicking version of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” with Kaelin dropping a fine musical saw solo.