SIOUX CITY | If you were looking for a master class in rock, you should have been at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Friday night.
Elvis was outside the building, eager to help you get schooled.
Rolling through five songs in less than 15 minutes, the Grammy-winning Elvis Costello rocked decades of hits, stopping long enough to tell one story, break up a classroom scuffle and grab one of what must have been a dozen different guitars.
Shortly into “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Costello’s students rose and didn’t sit down until he made a brief foray into ballad territory.
The scuffle? It came during “Every Day I Write the Book.” Like Miranda Lambert at the Tyson Events Center several years ago, he offered an ultimatum: “You’ve got two choices. You can stand down or we stop playing.” The crowd roared, Elvis got the clapping started and the self-appointed rock cop got the class in line. His secret teaching tool: a call-and-response sing-along that worked quite well at quelling.
While “Alison” seemed to be the favorite (it took audience participation to another level), it certainly wasn’t his only writing triumph.
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Costello, in fact, is such a sharp lyricist his songs bear close attention.
Thankfully, Battery Park’s sound system was quite good, enabling some of those nuanced parts of oh-so-fast songs to shine through.
Now 60, Costello was great on “Radio Radio” and “Watching the Detectives.” His guitar ability emerged repeatedly, justifying the Hard Rock hallway of instruments lined up behind him.
Songs like “Accidents Will Happen” showed his drive; “Flutter and Wow” demonstrated his range.
During that one “talking” break, Costello said he had planned to come to Sioux City in 1978 but got sidetracked in Tucson, Ariz. That led to “Accidents Will Happen” and a chance to show just how fun he can be.
Dressed in black (wrong for a hot Iowa night), a straw hat and shades (just right for the occasion), he was pretty much all business, not unlike an educator prepping his students for a final.
Performing for 90 minutes (without an opening act), Costello still had magnificent range (as demonstrated on “Alison”) and a determination that’s rare to find in a veteran act not named Springsteen.
His band, the Imposters, provided excellent support even though it didn’t offer one of those breaks where he could disappear for 10 minutes. They followed his lead and never slowed until it was time for the encore. Then, it was just a matter of cramming in as much as possible before class was dismissed.