Elvis Costello played solo for close to 2 1/2 hours tonight at the Copernicus Center, an old movie palace in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. He opened with one of my favorites, “Jack of All Parades,” from his great 1986 album King of America, and later returned to that record for another outstanding selection, “Suit of Lights.” He played most of the hits that you’d expect as well as a lot of obscurities.
Costello talked about his musician father and grandfather, and sang tunes inspired by his family history. He seemed to be in a nostalgic mood. He also reminisced about playing in 2012 at Riot Fest in Chicago’s Humboldt Park: “There were people down in front taking bets on who we were.” That was a nonstop rock set, to match the festival’s punk vibe. But tonight, Costello was mostly in troubadour mode. Gazing out at the theater’s nocturnal decor, he said, “Tonight, I’m just going to sing songs about the sun and the moon and stars, seeing how I’m here in this particular place.”
At one point, he went over to sit down in a chair. “We’ve come to the part of the show where I’d like to introduce my special guest — and it’s me!”
Costello interjected bits of other songs into his own, putting the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” in the middle of “New Amsterdam.” And at the end of his first encore, Costello stepped to the lip of the stage and sang a chorus of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” without the aid of a microphone.
Costello also had a new song, “The Last Year of My Youth,” and he played it twice — an acoustic version midway through the concert followed by a more rocking electric rendition during his first encore. But when it came time for the final song of the night, he went to an old standby, the Nick Lowe song Costello made famous, “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.”
Jack of All Parades / King Horse / Either Side of the Same Town / Sneaky Feelings / Watch Your Step / Veronica / Last Boat Leaving / Ascension Day / medley: New Amsterdam + You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (Beatles cover) / Come the Meantimes / The End of the Rainbow (Richard Thompson cover) / 45 / The Last Year of My Youth / Walkin’ My Baby Back Home (by Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert) / Ghost Train / Man Out of Time / Watching the Detectives / Everyday I Write the Book
FIRST ENCORE: Shipbuilding / For More Tears / Radio Radio / Allison / Earthbound / Stranger in the House / A Slow Drag With Josephine / Suit of Lights / Jimmie Standing in the Rain + ending with a chorus of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (by Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney)
SECOND ENCORE: Less Than Zero / The Last Year of My Youth / Couldn’t Call It Unexpected No. 4 / For the Stars / (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding