Mighty Like a Rose

No ivory tower theorist, the great Elvis Costello changes colors with the season

BY MOSI REEVES

Though fans of his early, beloved albums will argue otherwise, Costello believes that his recent growth as a songwriter has been a musical one. "I've gotten progressively more musically inclined as time's gone on, because I've learned more things," he says. He explains that, in the past, he would write songs such as "Tokyo Storm Warning" that were lyrically driven, with nothing but a simple rock arrangement (or, in the case of that apocalyptic tune, a drone). But he has since come to believe that his words should underline the meaning of the music; the music, in turn, should be textured, capable of evoking moods that words cannot fully express. "Sometimes the music leads the way; sometimes the words lead the way. But one is not more important than the other," he says.

The result is that, ever since his excellent 1986 album King of America, Costello has strayed far from his amphetamine-fueled pub rock roots into a world that is elegiac, symphonic, and epic. His recordings, with their layers of voices, sounds, and perspectives, creep along like passion plays. Many of them are too ambitious, dripping off the canvas like so much excess paint. But when they balance that abundance with focus and concision, they reveal priceless, hard-earned insights.

Even though he's no longer the titular angry young man, Costello is more alive and vital than the adult alternative scene, with its bathetic singer-songwriters and faded pop stars, that he's usually categorized with. For all its sophistication, The Delivery Man debuted at number 40 last fall, proof that Costello still has an audience for his incessant evolutions.

Elvis Costello: To some a cult figure; to others, one of the best 
singer-songwriters of his generation
jesse dylan
Elvis Costello: To some a cult figure; to others, one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation

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at 8:00 p.m. Friday, March 4. Tickets range from $35 to $60. Call 305-673-7300.
performs at 8:00 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach

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