Orlando Sentinel: Tod Caviness: 11th March 2015.
Elvis Costello stops in Orlando next week on his Detour Tour, an aptly named production for the man whose career of nearly 40 years has been filled with musical tangents.
As both a songwriter and performer, Costello — real name Declan McManus — has scratched his every musical itch. Since his 1977 debut album "My Aim Is True," he has explored a variety of genres in his solo work and collaborated with heavyweights from pop elder Burt Bacharach to hip-hop trailblazers The Roots.
Not to say the man lacks focus. Far from it: In an interview before the launch of his tour, the London-born Costello was more than happy to geek out about the career minutiae of his musical idols. What he wouldn't do was offer a prognosis about the future of rock music outside his own, admittedly vast bubble. Costello, as ever, is too busy doing his own thing to worry about his — or anyone else's — legacy.
"I have no idea what motivates younger pop artists," said Costello, 60, who now calls New York City home. "I know there are some younger musicians whose work I really like. As ever, you don't necessarily tune into the Top 40 expecting the biggest surprises," he said. "There was a time when that was the case, but this isn't one of them. It's a more urgent, less confident time, at least from the outside. A lot more anxiety.
"But somebody loves that music, so I'm not going to tell them it's no good. ... It's just music; it can't harm you."
With zen sentiments like that, one could argue that the once-angry new waver has spent the last decade settling down: His 2003 marriage to Canadian jazz artist Diana Krall has yielded twin sons (Dexter and Frank) and inspired at least one down-tempo, jazz-inflected album ("North," in 2003).
Declan McManus may be comfortable emotionally, but the creative Costello is as restless as ever. Though he never has scored a No. 1 album on the Billboard charts, his prolific output has resulted in a legion of dedicated fans. It also has given him plenty of fodder to work with on tour, and Costello knows how to keep it fresh: On live dates from 2011-2013, he let fate and the fans determine his set list via a "Spectacular Spinning Songbook" randomizer that he first used in the 1980s.
There's no such gimmick on the Detour dates, where Costello will play mostly stripped-down, solo takes on his work. (On previous shows, he's been joined on a few tunes by opening band Larkin Poe.) And although the set list will still be somewhat fluid, the one-man-band approach also will inject some fluidity into the songs.
"The essential song is, of course, what you're going to hear, hopefully," said Costello. "The very bare telling of the tale. And the other thing that can happen, of course, is that you can sometimes recast the song," he said. "A faster song, you can suddenly lean on the emotion a little heavier when you're not just thinking about the beat. There might be some humor in the song or some little sadness in the song that isn't as obvious when you're playing at a full tilt."
In recent years, Costello has reaped an especially ripe harvest from his deep musical roots. In 2014 songwriters from Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket and others joined Costello to bring new life to Bob Dylan's recently unearthed lyrics from 1967 on "Lost in the River: The New Basement Tapes." And Costello reworked his own early lyrics on "Wise Up Ghost," a 2013 collaboration with The Roots.
That last project has shown that Costello can still surprise the critics. And even with his diverse resume, few these days would dare to call him a dabbler in any genre.
"I don't necessarily think I'm specially gifted or specially tuned to collaboration, but people make note of it a lot mainly because of the extreme contrast of where the people came from that I've worked with," Costello explained.
Clearly, this elder statesman doesn't do much reminiscing unless he can add something to the tale, even with the most timeworn of hits.
"When [former backing band] The Attractions and I took Nick Lowe's 'Peace, Love and Understanding,' Nick wrote that song, initially, almost tongue in cheek." recalled Costello. "But the strangest thing happened with the song. The longer we sung it, the more poignant it's become. Over the years I've made that song sound very aggressive and Nick, on the other hand, has gone in the other direction and sings it incredibly poignantly. And if I'm inclined to sing it from night to night I might do either with it. Some nights I want to scream it out, other nights I want to sing it like he does, more like a lament.
"So you see the potential for songs to change their meaning, even really well-known songs like that. They can change their meaning under your hands in the moment you're singing them."
Elvis Costello: The Detour Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17
Where: Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando
Cost: $45.75 and up