Prolific and eclectic are two words that certainly describe Elvis Costello’s musical body of work, and those elements were on full display at the British singer-songwriter’s March 3rd concert with his longtime backing band The Imposters at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York.
The show, which was part of the last US leg of Costello and The Imposters’ “The Boy Named If & Other Favourites” tour (get tickets here), found Elvis and company playing a handful of tunes from their latest album, 2022’s The Boy Named If, while also dipping heavily into the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s beloved late 1970s catalog.
Augmenting The Imposters’ core lineup of keyboardist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher was journeyman guitarist Charlie Sexton, who himself has had a notable solo career and for many years was part of Bob Dylan’s touring band. Sexton has been adding his gritty, blues-infused licks to Elvis and The Imposters’ live gigs since 2021.
The concert kicked off with a version of the 1978 gem “This Year’s Girl,” and was followed by 1977’s “Blame It on Cain.” At the beginning of the show, Costello’s vocals were sounding a bit rough, perhaps the result of playing a 10-night stand at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre just prior to launching this latest tour leg. He also seemed slightly out of sync with his backing band during the first few songs, but as the concert progressed, his voice grew stronger and he and the Imposters hit their stride.
Other classics in the set included “Radio, Radio,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Accidents Will Happen,” “Alison,” most of which featured arrangements that differed significantly from the original studio versions. In introducing “Radio Radio,” Elvis explained that when he originally wrote the song, it was inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s music, although he eventually reworked it, adding more aggressive, punk influences. “Accidents Will Happen” was mainly performed as a piano ballad, with Costello simply backed by Nieve.
Costello also paid tribute to legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach, who passed away last month at the age of 94. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, Elvis played “Toledo,” one of the standout tunes from his 1998 collaborative album with Bacharach, Painted from Memory.
In addition, he performed a pair of songs from an as-yet-unproduced stage musical he’s co-written called A Face in the Crowd — the title tune and “Blood and Hot Sauce.”
Another interesting highlight of the show was a performance of an obscure tune dating back to the 1960s called “I Don’t Want Your Lyndon Johnson” that Elvis explained he’d recently purchased as a vinyl single at a used record store in Ithaca, New York. The jump-blues-flavored song was played as a medley with “Gimme That Wine,” a 1960 tune by the jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.
The show featured renditions of four songs from The Boy Named If: “Penelope Halfpenny,” “What If I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” “The Man You Love to Hate” and “Magnificent Hurt.” Elvis also included an as-yet-unreleased new tune in the set, “Tipsy Woman.”
Throughout the gig, Costello delivered fun banter between songs, thoroughly engaging the audience with his dry sense of humor, and adding a bit of a stand-up vibe to the evening.
The concert ended with the one-two punch of “Pump It Up” and a rousing rendition of the Nick Lowe-penned classic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” the latter of which Costello famously covered for his 1979 album Armed Forces.
Elvis Costello and The Imposters’ “The Boy Named If & Other Favourites” tour winds down this Friday, March 10th, with a show in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pick up tickets to the remaining shows via StubHub, and see our photos and the setlist from the Port Chester concert below.
Photo Gallery – Elvis Costello & The Imposters at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY (click to expand and scroll through):
This Year’s Girl
Blame It on Cain
Either Side of the Same Town
Hetty O’Hara Confidential
I Don’t Want Your Lyndon Johnson/Gimme that Wine
When I Was Cruel No. 2
Wake Me Up
Watching the Detectives
What If I Can’t Give You Anything but Love
Accidents Will Happen
My Mood Swings
The Man You Love to Hate
Blood & Hot Sauce
A Face in the Crowd
(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea
Pump It Up
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding