Music News Nashville: George A. Paul: April 11th 2016. Photo By Ida Miller.
On April 5, the British rock veteran opened the 2 hour, 20-minute show at Riverside’s Fox Performing Arts Center with “Watching the Detectives,” one of his best known tunes and first UK top 20 single in 1977. Strolling out onto the stage with an electric guitar, Costello was shrouded in darkness as he looped the eerie reverb-drenched sounds. It was stunning as ever.
This solo Detour live jaunt had a brief US run last spring before heading abroad (The Liverpool stop was documented on a recent Eagle Vision DVD; also reviewed here). Finally making its way to Southern California, the concert setup found Costello deftly utilizing acoustic and electric guitars and piano. He occasionally told stories as a large old school TV projection backdrop rotated family and career-related photos, plus lyrics and related images).
Before a fast and frenetic “Accidents Will Happen,” Costello described his first American tour, staying at a Howard Johnson and marveling at all the amenities uncommon back home. “In those days, I tried to rid the world of alcohol…by drinking it all,” he said. Then the singer/songwriter humorously relayed the one-night stand lyrical inspiration, familiar to those who read the 2015 autobiography Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. “I wanted to listen to The Buzzcocks on the radio, she wanted Pink Floyd,” he recalled.
Although it took the voice a little while to warm up, Costello was in fine form during “Church Underground” (off 2010’s T Bone Burnett-produced “National Ransom”) and a laid back “Everyday I Write the Book.” For the latter, he joked about hating the song “because it only took 10 minutes to write and was a hit.” The audience engaged in some call and response action and vigorously cheered.
Moving over to a piano Costello claimed to have borrowed from wife Diana Krall, he described an early job as a computer programmer and brought some measured drama to Los Lobos’ “A Matter of Time.” That drew the first of many standing ovations.
For the first encore section, opening act Larkin Poe joined on mandolin and lap steel. The sibling duo truly electrified the proceedings, especially on a vibrant “Pads, Paws and Claws” and “Clown Strike,” where they added doo wop-styled backing vocals. Their harmonies during “Love Field” made it even more heavenly and helped make it a standout. Another came via “Blame it on Cain,” where the gals were obviously having a blast. Everyone clapped along to Costello’s rocking take on Dinah Washington’s 1953 R&B hit, “TV is the Thing This Year.”
The next encore found Costello playing an affecting solo electric guitar version of “Alison” inside the large TV and the dirty guitar rave up “Pump it Up” was memorable – even without a full band. Back on piano, Costello gave a passionate, gospel-type reading to “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” and it was amazing. More audience participation arrived amid a fun “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.” Larkin Poe returned for the final number, a punchy, bluegrass-leaning “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”
Earlier, Rebecca and Megan Lovell kicked off the evening with an impressive half hour set of blues-inflected Americana tunes off their album “Reskinned,” due out April 15. “Don’t,” a self-described “girl power anthem,” featured strong harmonies. “When God Closes a Door” was definitely intense, especially with Rebecca providing a single kick drum beat. The stark tone of “Blunt,” about the Georgia sisters’ view of the world right now, proved intriguing. Gritty current single “Trouble in Mind” was a highlight. Larkin Poe capped everything off with a fine cover of the Sonny Bono-penned, Cher-sung “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” making it their own with some added drama.