If it weren't for the giant cup of tea he was sipping throughout his performance at the Warner Theater, you could have sworn that Elvis Costello has been crooning country in Nashville for decades rather than rocking out in his native London. But it's the country Costello that the audience was treated to, throwback honkytonk tracks off of last year's "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane" -- the name coming from the superb six-piece band, Sugarcanes, that played alongside Elvis in D.C.
Leading the Sugarcanes was country and bluegrass veteran Jim Lauderdale, his stellar high pitch blending perfectly with Costello's deep, brassy tones. Lauderdale, who talked to both fans and reporters after the concert, said linked up with Costello three years ago after the two performed at many of the same music festivals.
Best known for his work in the new wave genre, Costello took a page from his own history book by going country for the first time since his 1981 "Almost Blue" album. And the results were stellar. Costello's live set showcased last year's singles "My All Time Doll" and "Sulphur and Sugarcane," with the Sugarcanes providing mandolin, accordion, bass, fiddle -- and, heck, even the dobro, to go along with Costello's multiple guitars.
In the middle of his nearly two-hour set, Costello invited his most vocal fans to join him up front, saying, "It'll be like a giant tea party." And what a party it was.
For fans of Lauderdale, he'll return to the D.C. area May 20 to perform at the Iota Club in Arlington to promote the soon-to-be-released album "Patchwork River."