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Elvis Costello & The Imposters @ Paramount Theatre, 9.30.11
As walk-offs go, it was remarkably polite.
When parts of the crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington got way too chatty during the lovely “A Slow Drag with Josephine,” from his recent “National Ransom” album, Elvis Costello stepped away from the mic and simply sang to himself for a bit.
He was trying to get the crowd to quiet down and listen to him again early in the encore, but that didn't work. When people started screaming for “Alison” in the middle of the song, he simply walked to the mic, finished it up and then walked off the stage, probably a song or two before he planned. He did not return, ending what was still a wonderful opening night for The Paramount, on an odd, but memorable note.
After all, Costello's entire “Revolver” tour is built around the idea that the audience really can't lose. Sure, there is some chance involved, thanks to The Wheel, which people spin to determine the next songs. (Costello even slipped in great versions of The Beatles' “And Your Bird Can Sing” and Them's “I Can Only Give You Everything” when he wasn't delivering fiery versions of his own “Pump It Up” and “Radio, Radio.”)
But if all those songs are good and they're played by Costello — who was in great voice all evening and gamely walked deep into the crowd several times — backed by the great Steve Nieve on keyboards and Pete Thomas on drums, why on earth would anyone complain? Or not pay attention? Is your conversation really more important than watching three Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in an intimate, impressive new setting that you presumably paid good money to see?
Costello was right to walk off the way he did. He actually would have been justified to tell some people off first.
SETLIST: I Hope You're Happy Now / Heart of the City / Mystery Dance / Uncomplicated / No Action / Radio, Radio / Everyday I Write the Book / Accidents Will Happen / And Your Bird Can Sing / Pump It Up / I Want You / Payday / Monkey to Man / The Long Honeymoon / Watching the Detectives / (What's So Funny ' Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding / Waiting for The End of the World / I Can Only Give You Everything // ENCORE: Condemned Man / (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea / Sleep of the Just / A Slow Drag with Josephine