Wednesday night at Kansas City's opulent Midland Theatre, Elvis Costello demonstrated there's still fire in his belly.
Now more than 25 years into his performing career, Costello knows when to croon and when to shout, when to bring his uniquely jagged guitar playing to the fore and when to let his band do the heavy lifting.
His band, the Imposters, has two-thirds of his original backing band, the Attractions: keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas. But there's a hole in the sound where stellar bassist Bruce Thomas used to ply his talents, though Imposters' bassist Davey Faragher does yeoman's work.
Costello also knows how to work a room. At 48, most of his fans are his contemporaries. Astutely, he presents almost half of his show during the two extended encores, when the audience is on its feet.
In 2 1/2 hours Costello performed 28 songs, going back to his debut release, "My Aim Is True," and up to his most recent recording, "When I Was Cruel." He included lesser-known gems such as "Love Field" and "Indoor Fireworks" and staples like "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" and "Radio Radio."
Always one to keep things interesting, he included "My Mood Swings" from the Coen brothers' film "The Big Lebowski" and "The Judgement," written for Solomon Burke. The well-placed covers and musical quotes included "My Funny Valentine" during "When I Was Cruel No. 2," a concert highlight. Others were "He'll Have To Go" and "Suspicious Minds" to end "Alison."
Costello closed the show with a chilling performance of "I Want You," an ode to being someone's romantic leftovers. Though the sound in the cavernous theater was muddy at times, the performance overwhelmed that minor distraction.