delawareonline: Ryan Cormier: 28th June, 2014. Photos By Bill Bretzger
Even though was joking, Delaware Elvis Costello fans couldn't help but feel giddy when the British rocker delivered this line at The Grand Friday night: "As you know, rock 'n' roll was invented here in Wilmington."
The Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famer couldn't help but play around with his surroundings during his endlessly enjoyable two-hour, triple encore solo performance on Market Street.
"It's a secret recipe that they had just here in Wilmington," he continued. "They put it in a bottle and it floated away to sea and it landed in Liverpool."
By this point in the night, Costello had already woven The Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" into his song "New Amsterdam."
Surrounded by seven guitars, the British rocker stayed on the acoustic side of things for much of the show, sitting down for part of the set and strumming with his legs crossed.
As he sang and whistled from under his trademark hat, he seemed like he was channeling Leon Redbone as he casually delivered songs like 1930's "Walkin' My Baby Back Home." He played it because he was "feeling all kind of frisky" knowing that his wife, jazz artist Diana Krall, was headed back to their home from a trip to Paris.
"Hand in hand to a barbecue stand," he sang in dedication to Krall, who was mid-flight at the time. "Right from her doorway we roam."
Throughout the night, Costello gave a guided tour of his 40-plus year career, jumping from hits like "Alison," "Veronica" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?" to hidden gems like "Senior Service" and "Jimmie Standing In The Rain."
He got a big laugh when he referred to his earlier work as "punk rock songs or whatever they were."
For this tour, dubbed "The Last Year of My Youth" tied to his 60th birthday in August, Costello has been creating one-and-done themed setlists for each show.
"I pick a theme that I make up in my head on the day. I take a look at the hall, and I might say, 'Tonight, it's all songs about love and deceit,' of which I have quite a few,'" he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" earlier this month. "I try to connect the songs together in my head. I don't have a script, but I have lots of songs and I try to write a program that's linked together. That way it's more immediate for me and hopefully the audience hears something unique."
And unique it was.
The show was a mix of "VH1 Storytellers" and a late night campfire jam as Costello showed off his skills as an all-around entertainer -- skills he honed a few years back hosting two seasons of the excellent (and now defunct) music-themed talk show "Spectacle: Elvis Costello with..."
"It's good to be here in Wilmington," said Costello, complimenting the opera house and musing if it was his first time performing in Delaware's largest city. "There's always someone in the back who yells, 'You were here in 1975!'"
Coming off a pair of sold out shows this week at New York's Carnegie Hall, Costello was chock full of insight about his songs and upbringing.
He said he wrote 1983's "Everyday I Write The Book" in 10 minutes. "And it was a hit, so I feel guilty," he added.
Later, he reminisced about his father, who was a musician and far from the buttoned-down conservative you might have expected growing up in England in the 60s.
"He went a little crazy. He grew his hair long and would say things to me like, 'You're a disgrace to the family. Grow your hair you f--king skinhead,'" he said.
Costello's stories and songs made the sold out 1,200-person opera house feel like a living room -- a living room that just happens to have a rock icon unspooling his heart for two hours straight.
Rock 'n' roll may not have been invented in Delaware, but for one night Costello made it the only place for a rock fan to be.