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Oh well, Costello eschews nostalgia

MGM Music Hall at Fenway, Boston, July 6, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Early on during his lengthy 2 -hour show before an older crowd, Elvis Costello self-opined that he was probably "the least nostalgic person in the room." While the comment was referring to something else, he might as well have been talking about his performance.

He may have named this tour "We're All Going on a Summer Holiday," but the fact of the matter was that this was a challenging show for his long-time fans.

That would have been evident from the first three songs, Costello and The Imposters played: "Pills and Soap," "Possession" and "Newspaper Pane." The opener was a moody piece, more of a crooner type of song that Costello seemed to like. But if looking to engage with that or the two follow-up songs, which one could label deep catalogue, it didn't portend for an easy listen.

And even when Costello did play some of his best-known songs, he approached Dylan status in his delivery. "Accident Will Happen," which followed, was typical of how that would go. He tended to slow down the delivery and sing a step behind the beat. At a large level, this would prove frustrating because Costello's reinterpretation was not any improvement over the original. However, tacking on The Temptations' "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" to "Alison" worked well.

Nor was Costello's voice especially satisfying – at least on the slower songs when he wanted to be a crooner. Being off key at times didn't help. And while he deserves credit for covering Merle Haggard on "Welcome to the Working Week/Workin' Man Blues," Costello didn't approach the grit and blue collar attitude of The Hag.

The Imposters were solid with pianist/keyboardist Steve Nieve the standout. Charlie Sexton may have been a special guest guitarist, but too often he could not be heard. Costello's stinging, sharp guitar playing did the job just fine.

There just was not enough of a musical flow to the night either with no sense that this concert was going to higher levels. It became more engaging as it went along with a few extended songs showing the band's abilities.

But Costello was doing it his way on this evening with being particularly sentimental about the past. There is something to be said about nostalgia.

And that would be the wonderful, enjoyable, ingratiating Nick Low & Los Straitjackets, who opened. Lowe joked that he was the table setter to get the crowd going. In retrospect, the crowd responded more to Lowe and his well-written and delivered songs like "Cruel to Be Kind" and the funny closer "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll)." Lowe's voice was a tad worn, but a pleasure nonetheless. And the masked men of Los Straitjackets are top shelf musicians as well, including a few songs with Lowe.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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