Live Report: Elvis Costello & The Imposters at the Youtube Theater

Artist: Elvis Costello & The Imposters

Venue: YouTube Theater

Date: November 13, 2021

I will admit to some hesitancy when purchasing a ticket to see Elvis Costello with his band The Imposters at the YouTube Theater. Costello has had a very long and diverse career, with sojourns into R&B, jazz and classic pop standards – and I’m mainly a fan of his rock/mod/punk style music. I didn’t know what kind of show he would be playing that night, but I also knew I didn’t want to miss a chance at catching one of the best exports the UK ever gave us.

Thankfully, the evening would be a mostly crowd-pleasing affair, with Costello focusing mainly on his more rocking songs, with only some brief dalliances into his other influences. He opened the night with a hard-hitting version of Nick Lowe‘s “Heart of the City”, followed by his Armed Forces cut “Green Shirt”. The night’s first highlight came next, with his performance of his 2020 single “No Flag”. Hearing the track live further confirmed my belief that it’s one of the best, biting punk songs he’s written in decades, and stands up perfectly with his earliest work. Costello and the band played two more other key tracks from the 2020 album Hey Clockface; “Hetty O’Hara Confidential”, which the band tackled in a way that it brought out the song’s bebop heart, and the jazzier “Hey Clockface/How Can You Face Me”.

On songs like the latter, where Costello veered away from his more well-known material, it often seemed like the opportunity audience members would take to get a drink or use the bathroom during sets. But as I said earlier, Costello mainly focused on his more rock-oriented songs, likely because his forthcoming album A Boy Named If, is said to be a back to basics album. Based on the tracks he previewed from that album, “Penelope Halfpenny”, the title track and current single “Magnificent Hurt”, it certainly sounds Costello is continuing where he started with “No Flag”.

The body of the set was filled with a few more crowd pleasers (“High Fidelity” and “Watching the Detectives” received joyful responses) as well as a few of his personal indulgences (such as his Burt Bacharach collaboration “I Still Have that Other Girl”). I will say the one big disappointment of the night was Costello’s Cubano reimagining of “Brilliant Mistake”. A personal favorite track of mine, it’s Latin-style remake (Costello recently released Spanish Model, full of new takes on his classic album done by Spanish and South American artists) just did not do the song justice. It’s a track so perfect in its simplicity, that any tinkering just ruined the formula.

The bad taste was quickly washed away as the band launched into “(I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea”, a classic that sounded fantastic live. Soon after this, Costello and his band would grace the audience with a riotous “Radio, Radio” which had the crowds dancing, a moving take on “Newspaper Pane” (which sounded far better live than on record), and a lovely, slowed down version of “Allison”.

I expected the evening to end there, but I am grateful to be wrong. “Farwell, Ok” brought the energy back up, warming up the crowd for the singalong “Pump It Up” and a spirited “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. If you can’t smile hearing that song, there’s simply something wrong with you. So unlike another artist I recently saw live (name rhymes with Man Vorrison), Costello knows how to properly mix up his sets with some new material to promote, some tracks for himself, and songs for the audience.

If you aren’t familiar with the man’s work, dive into his catalogue with the below playlist, and keep an ear out for his new album early in 2022! Also watch a few clips from the show at our Instagram: @TheIndyReview

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