Kansas City Concert Review: Elvis Costello’s “The Juliet Letters”

“The Juliet Letters”
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Review By: J.R. Deeter

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

As a fan of the music and lyrics of Elvis Costello I have to admit I had never heard of his 1993 release “The Juliet Letters,” a collection of 20 songs for voice and string quartet. I was not sure what to expect from the artist who has written a few of my favorite “pop” tunes through the years, given this performance was certainly not going to fit into the customary mold of his usual offerings.

From the start, this was indeed something different, something not easy to listen to. I kept waiting for the music to gain momentum into what I was used to. I kept waiting for the lyrics to give way to some snappy chorus easy to sing along to, but this was not to be and after my contemplation of the experience, I came away pleased anyway.

The vocalization interpretations of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Resident Artists of April Martin, soprano; Samantha Gossard, mezzo-soprano; Casey Candebat, tenor and John Viscardi, baritone, were very entertaining. The set was designed with written letters hanging from wire in a crisscross pattern. The artists would remove pages and exchange them from one to another as they lit or extinguished lighting to create an ever changing dramatic atmosphere. The tone and lyrics are dark and brooding. It became clear that these were not to be happy, lovey dovey letters between star crossed lovers, but words of the brokenhearted; Painful, mournful anguished tales of love lost, or missing or refused.

The Fry Street Quartet of the Caine College of Arts at Utah State University provided the music and was the highlight of the evening. The performance of each member as they presented their part of the music really helped to convey the emotions of the selections and left me feeling sad and melancholy, as one should when the desire for love and happiness is not to be.

Concert Review: Elvis Costello w/Larkin Poe

“Elvis Costello Detour Tour”

Elvis Costello w/Larkin Poe
Friday October 7th, 2016
Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Concert Review by J.R. Deeter

I have to admit I haven’t really listened to Elvis Costello in a long while so when I heard he was having a show at a local “small” venue, I thought it would be cool to check it out, enjoy the hits and see what was new with the man who first caught my attention when I was a radio DJ in the 80’s. Back then “Everyday I Write the Book” and “Allison” were staples of my Top 40 airplay.

The setting for this “Detour Tour” was both simplistic and engaging. Centered around a giant TV screen on which still photos and occasional videos played out moments of time in the life of Costello (including a performance of his fathers 1960’s version of “If I Had A Hammer”) were an easy chair, a few guitars and a borrowed piano from his wife, jazz artist Diana Krall.

Opening act Larkin Poe was an unexpected pleasure. The duo from Atlanta are often described as Southern roots rockers and they do deliver with their bluesy, guitar driven sound. The vocals of Rebecca Lovell and lap steel guitar of sister Megan combined to entertain and for me, the highlight of their set was a smokin’ cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Larkin Poe also serve as backing musicians for Costello for a good portion of his show.

Costello’s performance rolled through several waves, moving at times from guitar to piano and back to guitar. In between, anecdotes and reminiscences were delivered, along with the occasional Trump jab, to an appreciative audience. Many in the audience were surprised to learn that Costello had written several songs for a planned stage musical based on the film “A Face In the Crowd.” Upon divulging this, Costello performed “Blood & Hot Sauce” and “Burn the Paper Down to Ash” featuring vocals by Larkin Poe’s Rebecca Lovell. Top moments for me included the off mike, into the audience version of “Alison” and the rousing, crowd pleasing “Peace, Love and Understanding.” On the downside, no “Veronica” or “Radio Radio.”

Elvis Costello Set List:
1.)New Amsterdam
2.)Poison Moon
3.)Accidents Will Happen
4.)They’re Not Laughing at Me Now
5.)All This Useless Beauty
6.)Everyday I Write the Book
8.)Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
9.)No Man’s Woman
10.)Face in the Crowd
11.)Little White Lies
12.)American Without Tears
13.)Watching the Detectives
15.)Blame It on Cain
16.)Clown Strike
17.)Burn the Paper Down to Ash
19.)That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving
20.)American Mirror
Encore 2
21.)(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
22.)Jimmie Standing in the Rain
23.)Side By Side
24.)Blood & Hot Sauce
Encore 3
25.)Brilliant Mistake
26.)Down on the Bottom
27.)(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
28.)Good Year for the Roses

The tour continues through the month. Upcoming dates include:

October 11: Majestic Theater Dallas, Texas

October 13: Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater Austin, Texas

October 14: Revention Music Center Houston, Texas

October 15: Saenger Theater New Orleans, Louisiana

October 17: Ryman Auditorium Nashville, Tennessee

October 18: Cobb Energy Centre Atlanta, Georgia