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Elvis Costello And The Imposters At The Theater AT MSG, Thursday, February 28th, 2013

A couple of years ago Costello, opening for the Strokes at MSG, performed a three song set right off This Year's Model at a breakneck pace, and brought down the house. AT the Theater At Madison Square Garden Thursday Night, opening for the Who as part of the Teen America Cancer Benefit Concert, he did the same thing. Twelve songs in 45 minutes, the latest being a vintage 1983 "Everyday I Write The Book", with a streamlined the Imposters, former Attractions drummer Pete Thomas and keyboard player Steve Nieve and guitarist Davey Faragher, it was like the Ramones on steroids.

The setlist was a  ridiculous abundance of riches and a study in how you play to an audience 'ungry for the Oo. You start with two sure shots off Get Happy!! and you then delve into This Year's Model and My Aim Is True, with a couple of Armed Forces hits, a Punch The Clock and a cover from the headliner's catalog. Trust me, that is the recipe for a brilliant set.

Costello never phones it in, he is the Joe DiMaggio of rock and roll, he plays as though that kid in the stands will never see him perform live again and he doesn't want to disappointment. An extended "Everyday I Write The Book" was maybe the best song, though a just about perfect "Watching The Detectives" is trumped by an "Alison" that quotes from "The Wind Cries Mary" "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "There's A Place For Us". Oh, and a surprise "Lipstick Vogue"!

Costello and his band were all business with Steve Nieve especially being a model of upbeat energy, and the audience responded precisely as Elvis planned for them. "I'm coming down to join you watching the Who" he claimed, before leading the band thru "What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding" to a mass singalong and  ended with a sincerely excellent "Substitute". 

You wanna open for the Who? This is how it is done.

Grade: A

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