Dressed in Scottish Highland garb and sporting his mother’s family tartan, Costello stood downstage early in the set, gesturing with his fingers for the audience to give it up following numbers. He also spun tales about his education through music. “I learned more from records than I ever did books,” he said.
Backed by the Imposters — Davey Faragher on bass, Steve Nieve on keyboards, Pete Thomas on drums and San Antonio native Charlie Sexton on lead guitar — Costello delivered a set front loaded with unreleased tracks and unfamiliar arrangements of the classics fans craved.
The show got off to an energetic start with “A Town Called Riddle” from an unproduced musical, followed by “You Belong to Me” from the 1978 album This Year’s Model and “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” from 2020’s Hey, Clockface. The 69-year-old Costello took a little breather to talk about Bruce Springsteen, the inspiration for what may be his most iconic tune, “Radio Radio,” which he unleashed before slipping into more unreleased material.
The performance of “Man Out of Time” was sung at a slower pace than the music, just like his first hit single, “Watching the Detectives.” The noir feel of that song was amped up significantly with black lighting and a heavy dose of melodica from Nieve.
The songs became more familiar as the show progressed, even if the arrangements weren’t. “(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” for example, had a comfortable South Texas cantina feel. However, Costello may have reached too far vocally on his arrangement of “Dio Come Ti Amo / Almost Blue.” As a performer, he clearly knows the limits of his upper vocal range, but he pushed past them just the same.
The audience energy Costello had been craving throughout the night finally arrived when he called Nina Diaz — the frontwoman of San Antonio’s disbanded Girl in a Coma — onstage. She sang the opening track on his 2022 album Spanish Model, a Spanish-language reimagining of This Year’s Model.
The guest's presence triggered the trip down memory lane as the Imposters plus Diaz ripped through what could best be described as an encore. The Boomers — and everyone else — responded. “Pump It Up,” “(I Don’t Wanna Go to) Chelsea,” “Less Than Zero,” “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” and the rarely heard “Mystery Dance” from Costello’s debut album were what the crowd had been anticipating.
For those older members of the audience, the familiar tracks in the finale were almost as welcome as the house lights coming up.