Elvis Costello in Clearwater, FL: An evening of new tunes, some classics, and superb musicianship

Elvis Costello & the Imposters. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: Elvis Costello & the Imposters – Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida – January 11, 2023

Elvis Costello & the Imposters. Photo by Chyrisse.

On January 11th, Elvis Costello and the Imposters performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. The venue appeared sold out and only a few vacant seats were visible. Remarkably, the gender ratio appeared to be half-and-half since Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Costello has a long catalog of music with mass appeal. Not only is he a renowned producer (he kickstarted The Specials and Squeeze), but he has a coffer of 32 studio albums, which embrace every genre. He has collaborated with Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach and authored articles for publications, including his memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.

Steve Nieve of Elvis Costello & the Imposters. Photo by Chyrisse.

Costello came on stage wearing a kilt and tam, flanked by longtime keyboard player Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas, bassist Davey Faragher, and Charlie Sexton, a well-known blues guitarist who toured with Bob Dylan for years.  The evening consisted of a long stream of recent or unreleased tunes mixed with a smidgen of hits familiar to the casual fan. Those expecting a greatest hits concert were likely disappointed, as the evening celebrated musicianship that crossed many genres. Songs such as “My Baby Just Squeals (You Heel)” and “Mystery Dance” imbued a 50s rock flair. The reggae-tinged “Watching the Detectives” garnered a standing ovation.

Between songs, he chatted with the audience, telling stories about hearing Bruce Springsteen’s music for the first time in 1972 (“I thought he was an unknown Dutch artist”) and finally performing at the Stone Pony in New Jersey, where he (“saw a donkey tied to a post”) like at the seaside boardwalk in Liverpool. He then launched into fan favorite “Radio Radio.”

Costello was charming and cheeky as he introduced songs like the unreleased “I Don’t Want Your Lyndon Johnson,” saying, “It’s either political or very rude.” He asked the audience to choose a song with “a woman’s name” or “one about confectionery” before performing the unreleased “Like Licorice on Your Tongue.”

Elvis Costello and Charlie Sexton. Photo by Chyrisse.

While chatting with the audience or during song performances, audible cheers, whistles, and requests for “Pump It Up” were screamed from the peanut gallery. The women sitting behind me were dancing and squealing “wooo” during most of the concert.

Highlights were “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” and the unreleased Dixieland gospel tune “Blood & Hot Sauce.” Costello switched between electric guitar and the piano for the emotional “Poisoned Rose” and the acoustic guitar for “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy.”

Fans left satisfied after hearing “Alison,” “Pump It Up,” and “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Overall, Costello’s voice and the band’s musicianship were superb. He seemed to be enjoying himself performing music of his liking, and the audience of rabid Costello fans seemed to approve.


Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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