Elvis Costello and the Imposters
Your grandparents remember Elvis Costello as that lean, sneering figure hopped up on amphetamines and fronting a band as vicious as any that punk produced. Jerks at the record shop talk of a flabby, fangless bourgeois who hasn’t made an essential record since King of America. And music-rag hacks dismiss him as that promiscuous collaborator who’s ashamed that rock is insufficiently highbrow. This all misses the singular thing he’s become: the old reliable. Like David Letterman, this one-time angry young man is now a rock-steady pro, unlikely to shock but incapable of sucking. Sure, it’s been a while since he cut a masterpiece, but it’s been almost as long since he cut a dud, and his last two rock (well, rock-ish) discs boasted real fire and soul. Live, he’s at his best, sweating through two-hour shows with his crackerjack band, the Imposters, rearranging the classics you expect and lighting fires under the new stuff. He’s as generous as Springsteen and just as much a ham. Enough bitching about what he was or what he should be — celebrate the man for what he damn well is.