The day of the show, I was at a store and the young cashier inquired how my day was going so far and asked me if I had any plans. I said, “Yes, I actually do have some plans. I am going to see Elvis Costello in concert tonight.” A blank look came across her face as she said, “Who?” Like a flashback to 1978, I was reminded of when I said the same thing to my older brother as he told me that he was going to see Elvis Costello at Milikan High School in Long Beach.
Costello has come a long way since that show over 44 years ago. His debut album, “My Aim is True,” is celebrating its 45th anniversary and he’s on tour behind a brand-new album called “A Boy Named If” and stopped at The City National Grove in Anaheim.
Bringing this show to The Grove was a good choice; the seating was theater-style for the evening, though I’ve seen The Grove set up for everything from a punk show with no seats to banquet tables for a show with dinner. The versatility of the Grove was never more evident than when the video screen displayed the soft rock duo Air Supply and the ‘80s heavy metal band W.A.S.P. were playing on consecutive nights.
Costello’s long-time friend, producer, and collaborator Nick Lowe was opening the show, which they haven’t done together since 1989. Lowe’s backing band is the Nashville-born Los Straitjackets. They were dressed in black and stayed incognito wearing Lucha Libre masks as they played. They are a tight band and have an authentic garage, surf, and country rock sound and do a great job backing Lowe on his classic songs.
Lowe stepped onto the stage looking like a silver fox with his platinum hair and said how great it was to be back in the beautiful city of Anaheim. He said if he remembered correctly, he hadn’t been here since 1978 when he played with his previous band, Rockpile. Their first song was a little rock and roll number called “So It Goes,” which was his solo debut single in 1976 and was also featured on the soundtrack to the 1979 Ramones’ movie, “Rock N Roll High School.”
They played a number of songs with an old-time country rocking feel like “Without Love,” “I Live on a Battlefield,” and “Tokyo Bay,” which had the audience bopping along in the aisles. Lowe briefly left the stage for a quick costume change, or as he put it, “to pick up his dry cleaning.” In the meantime, Los Straitjackets played a blazing instrumental interlude medley of Bo Diddley and “The Magnificent Seven” theme.
Lowe returned with a couple more songs before ending his set with two of his best-known hits, “Cruel to be Kind,” and the country rocker “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock N Roll.” The crowd showed their appreciation with an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Elvis Costello and The Imposters took the stage next and kicked it off with the Nick Lowe song “Heart of The City” to a great reception. Costello thanked the crowd for attending and thanked them for the response they gave to his good friend Lowe earlier.
The Imposters have been Costello’s band for the last 20 years, and they are Steve Nieve on keyboards, Pete Thomas on drums, Davey Faragher on bass, and newcomer guitarist Charlie Sexton.
The stage lights dimmed to set the mood and the audience erupted in cheers as they recognized the familiar guitar riff to “Watching the Detectives,” which turned into an extended jam as it segued into “Invisible Lady” and then “Isabelle in Tears” before coming back to “Detectives” for the end.
All in all, they played a total of five songs off the new album starting with “Farewell OK,” “A Boy Named If,” “Penelope Halfpenny,” “What If I Can’t Give You Anything But Love?” and “Magnificent Hurt.” Other notable songs of the evening were “Everyday I Write the Book” and “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.” Costello’s big hit “Pump It Up” did exactly that by bringing the crowd to its feet again as they pumped their arms in the air along to the chorus.
Costello brought Lowe back out for the finale and to help sing the song “Indoor Fireworks” and its line “When the smoke gets in your eyes.” If one song could sum up the crazy times we’re all currently living in, it’s got to be “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” A song originally written by Lowe, but ended up becoming a big hit for Costello in 1979. I couldn’t help but feel that its lyrics said it all so well, no matter your politics: “As I walk through this wicked world, Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity. I ask myself, is all hope lost? Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?” Such a poppy song with such dark lyrics.
THE GROVE OF ANAHEIM
August 30, 2022
They finished the evening with the ballad “Alison” off his debut album “My Aim is True.” Though not a hit when released, it became a fan favorite as evidenced by when the audience joined in singing along to the chorus at the end. Lowe stayed onstage for the final three songs and took a bow along with Costello before they walked off the stage.
It was a fantastic evening, seeing two music legends whose careers are so intertwined play a show together with incredible backing bands, and an audience that truly appreciated what we were all sharing together.