Elvis Costello & The Imposters

Austin City Limits Festival

September 19, 2004

Elvis Costello & The Imposters put on the best show at the Austin City Limits Festival last weekend. The first reason for the band’s superiority was Costello’s songwriting. He’s hard to compete with in that sense. Costello wrote songs that I was nodding and singing along to halfway through, even though I had never heard it before. Most of the unknown songs came from Costello’s new Imposters release, “The Delivery Man.” An album and set highlight was “Monkey to Man,” an elemental Pop Rock N’ Roll song with crunchy guitars and heavy hooks.

The second reason for the band’s effectiveness was Costello’s passion. He wasn’t some Rock dinosaur ready to fly autopilot through hits and float on his name. Costello screamed and clapped his hands above his head. Sure, he showed a fair degree of rock star cool and detachment(suit and sunglasses), but by the end of the set the crowd knew Costello wasn’t messing around. He began the set with “Radio, Radio.” He and his band played it like it was their first time.

The third reason for the band’s success was Costello’s craft at designing a set-list. It was perfect for the time allotted, which Costello went over by seven minutes. He bookended his set with the hits(“Radio, Radio,” “Accidents Will Happen”….“Peace, Love, and Understanding,” and “Pump It Up”). He got the set off to a good start with songs people recognized, and he ended the concert and sent people off with good feelings surrounding extended versions of their favorites. In between, Costello played his newer material and a newly arranged but still satisfying “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down.” Also in the middle was a sobering “Alison,” my all-time favorite Costello song. So many people were singing the lyrics along with me.

Costello’s second to last song as “Understanding,” which rocked and carried etra weight considering the unrest in Iraq. Costello rode off into the sun with “Pump It Up,” a feel good monkey-beat driven no-brainer if there ever was one. Costello kept extending the song. Just when I thought I could walk off knowing Costello had exhausted me, he got the crowd clapping again, and then the band resurrected itself. Nothing wrong with that.

Costello was great because he tested my stamina with beautifully written songs.

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