Elvis Costello closed out his “We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday” tour last night at The Met. Of the ten or so times I’ve seen EC, it was the most unexpected, with Elvis pushing the band and audience in myriad directions, while willfully ignoring most the songs beloved by his audience for most of the night.

Last time I saw Elvis was at a rare club gig at First Avenue in Minneapolis in late 2021. He had recently added Charlie Sexton to the band, supercharging the Imposters; I likened it to what if Tom Petty had played for 40 years and suddenly ran into Mike Campbell and invited him into the band. Charlie was so new that at times he would look at Davey and Pete for where and what to play, but you saw flashes of his brilliance adding new life and dimension to the songs.

On this tour Charlie is there, and Elvis added a three-piece horn section, plus Steve Nieve had more space on stage, with a grand piano accompanying his array of synths and other keys. When a band forms around a tour, I think it’s customary to rehearse and arrange a bunch of core songs – the classics and must-plays of an artist’s catalog. Elvis is so prolific, there are dozens of songs that fit this category. And at most shows with veteran acts, I think the audience expects to hear — and band expects to play — some percentage from that catalog every night – maybe it’s 2/3 of a show coming from that material. Then the remaining 1/3 is for the curve balls – the deep picks, hardcore fan faves, covers, explorations.

So this show last night – reversed that ratio – it was the longest Elvis show I’ve ever seen, clocking in at two hours and 45 minutes, and other than a four-song flourish of classics at the end, there were only about five tunes out of the remaining 20 or so that would have been familiar to more than 25% of the audience. Instead of “Everyday I Write the Book” or “Mystery Dance” or “Lipstick Vogue” or “Radio Radio” (to name a few he’s been regularly playing on this tour), Elvis took us on a journey – into gospel, jazz, tango, country, showtunes, reggae, piano ballads, and more. At one point he told a story about recording 2020’s “Hey Clockface,” then said “but we’re not going to play anything from that tonight,” then talked about last year’s “The Boy Named If” and said the same thing. Who does that? A guy on the last night of a tour, who has a great band and are playing for themselves. Maybe it was to let the band stretch out (lots of props to the horn players!), maybe it was to stretch himself, maybe he’s just sick of his own hits, but it was reminiscent of recent times I’ve seen Bob Dylan (maybe it was Charlie Sexton’s influence?), where you have no idea what he’s gonna play, classics might show up unrecognizable, and unlike the majority of veteran acts rolling out the greatest hits on the same setlist every night, you feel the artist (vs entertainer) pushing thru.

That was last night. It was totally unexpected. I’m not sure I liked it. I kind of hated myself for being like many and hoping for him to stop being an artist at some point and give us those greatest hits, but it was also the rare kind of show that inspires me to write about it the next day.

Most of the mostly over-50 crowd hung thru the show, which I was happy about (they didn’t bail because it was too hard), and at the very end, when Elvis and the band rolled into “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” / “Pump It Up” / “Shipbuilding” / “(What’s So Funny About) Peace Love and Understanding” performed with opener and writer Nick Lowe, it sent us out with a joyous close to a wild ride of a show.

photo by Jim McGuinn

Elvis Costello
The Met Philly
  • Pills and Soap
  • Possession
  • Newspaper Pane
  • Like Licorice On Your Tongue
  • Alison
  • All Or Nothing At All
  • Almost Blue
  • Come The Meantimes
  • Watching The Detectives
  • Shut Him Down
  • I Do (Zula's Song)
  • The Comedians
  • Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
  • Accidents Will Happen
  • Someone Took The Words Away
  • Toledo
  • Blood And Hot Sauce
  • Poisoned Rose
  • Mr. And Mrs. Hush
  • High Fidelity
  • Cinco Minutos Con Vos
  • We Are All Cowards Now
  • (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
  • Pump It Up
  • Shipbuilding
  • (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding