A man, a guitar, a piano and a stage. Sounds simple enough. But Elvis Costello's epic show Tuesday night at the Majestic Theatre was dynamic, eclectic and highly visual from start to finish, especially when the star riffed on some of his favorite touchstones from movie history.
A favorite topic was the 1957 Elia Kazan classic A Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith as the hick-turned-pitchman-turned-political pawn Lonesome Rhodes. Costello gave a perfect synopsis of the film, to which many, including me, have seen parallels to the rise of Donald Trump. He sang "A Face in the Crowd" from his piano, which he claimed to have borrowed from his wife, Diana Krall, and later joined opening act Larkin Poe for a wry jingle extolling Lonesome's corporate sponsor, the fictional miracle drug Vitajex.
But the cinematic highlight was a plugged-in, fuzz-drenched take on "Watching the Detectives." As Costello sank his teeth into the song, the giant mock TV onstage flashed vibrant posters for B noir movies, everything from The Killers to Pickup on South Street. He showed a photo of noir siren Gloria Grahame, and told us femme fatale is French for fatal woman. "Film noir," he cheekily offered, is "French for film noir."