No Attractions or Imposters: Just Elvis

AXS.com: Kevin Triebsch: 21st June, 2014

To say that Elvis Costello has a cult following would be an understatement. But judging from the first half of his June 19 solo show at the fantastic new Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, fans needed a little prodding to get involved. After Mr. Costello called out the audience for being “shy and retiring,” they seemed to come alive. Juggling five guitars ranging from acoustic to electric (with many pedal effects at his disposal), he proved to be quite an accomplished guitarist on this, his renowned solo tour.

And then there’s that voice. A distinct and distinguished tone that is unmistakable to anyone with an iota of musical knowledge. Between tunes, he told wonderful stories of his father’s singing career, as well as his grandfather’s singing career (who sang on the White Star Line ships that traveled between the UK and New York City). Funny, poignant and moving, Costello is a pro at connecting with his fans.

Throughout the night, he dipped his toes into some near-jazz improvisations (maybe his marriage to jazz singer Diana Krall has inspired his style?). Whatever the case, fans were hearing Costello’s classics with new ears. “Now I'm going to play a song I hate,” he announced, as he launched into a beautiful rendition of “Every Day I Write the Book.” “It was a hit, so I felt guilty. But it wasn't that big of a hit so I didn't feel that guilty.” He even urged the crowd to join in the call-and-response, to which they finally agreed.

“Shipbuilding” was most mesmerizing, as Costello sat at the organ offering pure entertainment with a side of simple brilliance. A little bit of magic occurred when he sang “New Amsterdam” and seamlessly transitioned into The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” a combo that he’s been doing for decades. Another highlight was “A Slow Drag With Josephine,” in which Costello showed off his expert whistling skills (the second whistling song of the set, no less).

After a near 90-minute set, he left and returned for an encore with openers Larkin Poe. The folk-rock/Americana trio, Georgia natives, did a bang-up job backing their idol on a handful of tunes. “Love Field” was a standout, as was the bluegrassy cover of Richard Thompson's “Withered and Died,” which Costello preceded with, “This is a sad song but I didn't write it.”

For the second and final encore, Elvis was alone again, shining on “Allison” and a stupendous “Radio Soul” (an early demo version of “Radio, Radio”). For the final song, he called Larkin Poe back onstage for a rousing (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” If you’re an Elvis fan, don’t miss this tour.

Larkin Poe actually have a history playing with Costello in the past, and it was evident in how smooth their collaboration went last night. Sisters Rebecca (lead vocals, mandolin, guitar) and Megan Lovell (harmony vocals, lap steel guitar), along with upright bass guy Robby Handley made local fans proud as they ran through a spirited set of original music. It’s no surprise that Mr. C has asked them to open for his next two shows, including the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville and the world famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Rich harmonies and exquisite musicianship made this “warm-up” band a delight to behold. With a nod to Vivaldi, the band released four season-themed EPs in 2010 (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) and another EP the following year entitled Thick as Thieves. To check tour dates or to hear/buy Larkin Poe music, click here.