Elvis Costello offered an inspired, if somewhat uneven show at Providence Performing Arts Center Tuesday night. It was the final stop on his “Imperial Bedrooms and Other Chambers” tour, and while the songs and artist were legendary, the show was occasionally marred by sound issues at the usually crystal clear PPAC.
Of course, Costello is a modern rock legend, known for his brash approach to hits like “Pump it Up” and “Welcome to the Working Week,” both covered nicely during the show. The angry young punk, who morphed into a torch song crooner, took a while to get into the groove; he and his band eventually got there, with a triumphant final encore that rocked as hard as anything.
Following the lead of many artists in recent years, Costello played a complete album, 1982’s Imperial Bedroom and a lot more, totaling 32 songs. Unlike his colleagues though, he scattered songs from the album in no particular order during the show, instead of playing it straight through. As always, he was supported by his impressive bandmates The Imposters – Steve Nieve on keys, Pete Thomas on drums, and bass player Davey Faragher.
The sound problems came mainly during the first part of the show, and the singer had some vocal challenges on songs like “The Loved One” and “Accidents Will Happen,” slightly re-arranged from the original rendition. Things began to turn around by the middle of the first set, when he sang a nice version of ”Watching the Detectives,” an early hit, accompanied by a slide show of vintage Hollywood movie scenes.
Following a brief break, the 15 song encore, more like a second set, led with the classic “Allison,” from his 1977 debut My Aim is True, he performed it with just his guitar and his two talented backup singers, Kitten Kuroi and Brianna Lee, who were a bright spot all night.
Other highlights included the Chet Baker-like “Almost Blue,” a ska inspired “Shaggy Doll,” and the driving “Beyond Belief,” the opening tune on Imperial Bedroom. The unreleased “Blood and Hot Sauce,” a piano based blues reminiscent of Randy Newman, was also a crowd pleaser.
The evening closed out like a rock show should – with the crowd up and dancing. First came the brilliant “Everyday I Write the Book,” followed by a punk-ish “Pump it Up,” and then a perfect ending with the Nick Lowe penned “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding.”
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Rating: 7 out of 10. Elvis Costello Live at PPAC – In the presence of a brilliant songwriter and legendary artist. A good show with some technical flaws.