by Doug MacGunnigle
Elvis Costello ended his “Imperial Bedroom and Other Chambers” Tour with a marathon 32 song, 2 and a half hour set at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night.
The tour, based around the 1982 “Imperial Bedroom” album, also featured material from throughout Costello’s career; almost everything from his 1977 debut My Aim Is True, to his work with Burt Bacharach in the late 90’s, to unreleased tracks from his planned musical “A Face in the Crowd” was represented.
Costello’s backing band, The Imposters, consists of Steve Nieve on keyboards and Pete Thomas on drums from the Attractions, as well as bass player Davey Faragher, who also contributed backing vocals along with Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee.
The show opened with “The Loved Ones” from Imperial Bedroom, and there were sound challenges early in the set with a somewhat murky mix that was slowly corrected as the evening progressed.
Providence was one of the only shows of the tour in which the entire Imperial Bedroom album was performed, although not in order.
Powerhouse keyboardist Steve Nieve was impressive as he (literally) hopped between grand piano, Vox organ, Hammond organ, and other various keyboards, sometimes mid-song.
Thomas and Faragher provided a solid rhythm section throughout, while Kuroi and Lee, at times slightly overused, provided strong vocals, particularly on the more lush “Imperial Bedroom” and later period tracks.
Highlights included an extended take on “Watching the Detectives” and “The Long Honeymoon,” which Costello described as somewhat of a sequel to the “Detectives,” featuring the same characters five years later.
After the initial 17 song set, which also featured an impressive rendition of the Bacharach co-write “This House is Empty Now,” Costello performed several songs on acoustic guitar and piano with just his backing singers, including “Alison,” and a few songs from his upcoming musical “A Face in the Crowd,” including the title cut and the humorous “Blood and Hot Sauce.”
Nieve rejoined Costello for several songs including “Shot with His Own Gun” and “Boy With A Problem,” before dedicating “Almost Blue” to “a girl who sings this for me from time to time, out in Bend, Oregon. (Costello’s wife Diana Krall, who performed the tune at PPAC last month, had a show that same evening in that city.)
The show wrapped with an extended “Everyday I Write The Book,” during which many in the crowd moved down to the front of the stage and each band member took a turn in the solo spotlight, followed by a muddy “Pump it Up” and the strong closer “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding,” to rapturous applause from the nearly sold out crowd.
Costello’s vocals remained strong throughout the long performance. It will certainly be interesting to see what his next move is, after a successful tour based on a 34 year old album that didn’t sell well to begin with.
Hopefully he continues to work on the “Face in the Crowd” concept, as it was among the strongest material of the evening.
1. The Loved Ones
2. …And In Every Home
3. Accidents Will Happen
4. Welcome To The Working Week
5. Miracle Man
6. Tears Before Bedtime
7. Moods For Moderns
8. Shabby Doll
9. Human Hands
10. Green Shirt
11. Go Tell (Your Quiet Sister)
12. Watching The Detectives
13. The Long Honeymoon
14. This House Is Empty Now
15. King Horse
16. You Little Fool
17. Pidgin English
19. Little Savage
20. A Face In The Crowd
21. Blood & Hot Sauce
22. Shot With His Own Gun
23. Boy With A Problem
24. Almost Blue
25. Sneaky Feelings
26. Kid About It
27. Beyond Belief
28. Man Out Of Time
29. Town Cryer – including The Bells
30. Everyday I Write The Book
31. Pump It Up
32. (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?