Last Night: Elvis Costello and The Police in the Woodlands

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Check out our slideshow of Elvis Costello and The Police in the Woodlands...

Elvis Costello / The Police May 20, 2008 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Better Than: Not seeing Elvis Costello with The Police. (See: Personal Bias.)

Download: Costello’s latest, Momofuku – especially “Go Away” – and hear one Elvis that never stops rocking. (Wait, is that distasteful? Oh well.)

I’ll start off by answering the question that everyone is wondering: This show was better than The Police’s previous show at the Toyota Center – according to my sister’s friend. She’s been to plenty of Police shows and seen Sting solo – and she says this concert was the one to see. Apparently, the last show was truer to the record, but this time around the trio is leaning more on Sting’s tendency to drag songs out a little more. This isn’t to say things get boring. Every song was stretched out just long enough to give fans a nice you-can’t-hear-this-on-a-record experience without venturing into, um, let’s just say, Dave Matthew’s territory.

Photos by Mark C. Austin

Check out our slideshow of Elvis Costello and The Police in the Woodlands...

But now, on to the real show. In the Texas heat, Costello took the stage in a suit – this dude’s got class. Other than an opening slot, two factors stopped this from being a hands-down, great Costello show: a meager crowd in front of the stage (the lawn was pretty packed) and the giant venue, which swallowed much of the sound. (Apparently, openers don’t get to use every speaker in the house, only the ones on stage and few on the lawn.) I was sitting a couple rows back, center, and had a hard time hearing Costello and his Imposters. Now, I’m not delusional, I know there is no way Costello could ever sell out the Toyota Center or even come close to selling out the Pavilion, but all I’m saying is it was disappointing to only get eleven songs on low volume – but moving on …

Costello started off with a new number: “Stella Hurt,” the seventh track off his latest release, Momofuku. About half the set was devoted to this release and no one was complaining. Costello still knows how to write riff-heavy, lyrically-clever rock ‘n roll, and considering most people were there for The Police and barely knew anything from him past “Allison,” it was a good chance to test out new material. Vintage hits like “Pump It Up,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” and, of course, “Allison” played along perfectly side by side fresh tunes like “Go Away” and “Flutter & Wow.”

Costello was in true form – he’s still a charmer. He flirted with the ladies and coaxed them into cheering for an introduction to “Allison.” And speaking of ladies, many were pleasantly surprised when Sting came out and joined Costello for the tune and took over the second verse.

When introducing another new track, “Flutter & Wow,” Costello informed the crowd that this was the slow-dance portion of the show, but some people on the lawn were in no position to dance. “I see some of you are lying down,” Costello said. “I think some of the best dancin’ is done that way, myself.” Damn, this dude is smooth.

He ended things with (the expected) “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” and was out of the way in less than an hour. One (and by one I mean me) can only hope this performance was just a teaser for a possible headlining tour later this year.

Personal Bias: I’m a Costello fan. I like The Police, but nothing tops Elvis. Although I thought it was neat to hear Sting sing that second verse, nothing is more heartbreaking than Costello’s bluesy, scratchy vocals pining after the girl that got away.

Random Detail: Is it weird that I got a little nostalgic for the Notorious B.I.G. when The Police broke into “Every Breath You Take”?

By the Way: From my sister’s (somewhat inebriated) friend: “Never forget that Stewart Copeland is playing his ass off right now! I love Stewart Copeland.” -- Dusti Rhodes

Elvis Costello's Setlist:

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