June 24, 2002
Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta


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Elvis Costello is a rarity among major artists. While he's hugely influential, he has never bowed to expectations. Over the past ten years alone, he has veered into the edges of classical, opera, and experimental pop. He even collaborated with schmaltz king (not an insult) Burt Bacharach on a gorgeously tense record. Now Elvis is back to rock and roll. Tonight at Chastain, he reinvigorated the masses with his acerbic insights, barbs and the edge of his electric guitar. Opening with the great new track "45," Elvis set off on a 25-song journey through his entire career. While some of the new songs ("Spooky Girlfriend" and "Tart") lack the streamlined power of his earlier work, others ("Dust," "Tear Off Your Own Head," "Alibi") rose far beyond the heights reached on When I Was Cruel. All of the material was fleshed out and more fully realized. The brand new title track was truly exceptional. After pulsing through 6 or 7 minutes, it reached a disorienting, avant-garde conclusion that had to be heard to be believed. To the chagrin of the passive Costello fan, a lot of the show featured less familiar deep cuts such as "I Hope You're Happy Now," Tiny Steps" and "Uncomplicated” instead of “Allison” and “Every Day I Write The Book” which were conspicuously absent.  During the lesser-known songs, many of the audience members talked amongst themselves and pretty much ignored the show. It was a shame, because some of the coolest moments were considered background to the biggest chunk of the Chastain crowd. They missed some truly inspiring stuff because of their indifference to anything not played to death when they were in college. "All This Useless Beauty" and "Beyond Belief" managed to garner strong responses, but every time a classic like "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" or "Watching The Detectives" was played, it was clear that the heart of the crowd was with the most obvious choices. To my delight, the band was perfect all night. They were able to follow the sharp turns that Elvis would take like stunt drivers. Keyboardist Steve Nieve was especially vital. Whether he was adding the jaunt to "Pump It Up" or adding free jazz touches to "Episode Of Blonde," he was the core to sound of The Imposters. Ending with the double barrel kick of "(What's So Funny) 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding" and "Radio Radio" would've lifted the roof off had there been one. By this time, the entire crowd was with Elvis and wouldn't let him go until after he'd dished out no less than 3 encores. The second one saw the fist raising "Pump It Up," but the final encore was the stunner. After "Lipstick Vogue," he ran head first into the sparse, brutally painful "I Want You." With only a dull purple darkness shadowing the stage, Costello's head floated in a yellowish light. No other lighting was necessary. As the song built little by little, the chills on my arm built upon one another. As Elvis devolved into a passionate repetition of the "Did you call his name out" section that ended in screaming (onstage and off), I realized that this performance was one of the coolest things I've ever been lucky enough to witness. An out of control solo followed, sending dissonant notes flying past me. This caused me to temporarily lose my usually jaded demeanor. There was no way to follow "I Want You" and Elvis was smart enough to know it. After more than two hours, I was a bit numb. It was a nice numb.

(Chris McKay/concertshots.com)

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Elvis Costello set list 6-24-02

1. 45
2. Waiting For The End Of The World
3. Watching The Detectives
4. Spooky Girlfriend
5. I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea
6. 15 Petals
7. Accidents Will Happen
8. Tiny Steps
9. I Hope You're Happy Now
10. Tear Off Your Own Head
11. Possession
12. How To Be Dumb
13. All This Useless Beauty
14. Tart
15. Beyond Belief
16. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love And Understanding
17. Radio Radio

encore 1:

18. When I Was Cruel
19. Uncomplicated
20. Dust

encore 2:

21. Alibi
22. Pump It Up

encore 3:

23. Episode Of Blonde
24. Lipstick Vogue
25. I Want You