Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe at Wolf Trap

It’s gratifying to have any Elvis Costello concert come around, after two years of pandemic postponements. But the one that finally took the stage at Wolf Trap in Virginia last week had the added advantage of being opened by Nick Lowe, his longtime colleague, producer and influencer.

It was a version of  “Surrender to the Rhythm” originated by Lowe’s old band Brinsley Schwarz that was playing as Costello appeared on stage. Costello’s version came on his latest recording, marking 50 years since he and a friend recording under the name Rusty tried to release a record of such covers they did at the time.

Costello told a story about approaching Lowe at the time as fans and hopefuls and being shooed off. Eventually Lowe would produce six Costello albums, play bass on a dozen songs, and otherwise cross paths through the years.

It was Lowe’s ringing “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?” that was the climax of the rewarding show, with the two trading its memorable, ever-timely verses. Lowe had come back on stage (in a third dashing outfit) to duet on “Indoor Fireworks,” a Costello song that Lowe had released a year before its author did on “The King of America.”

Frankly their harmonies weren’t great, but it was almost touching to see the two together on stage making an effort.

Costello’s headlining set was a freewheeling one for the huge crowd (who looked to be averaging the age of the singer, who turns 68 this week). As such, they wanted to hear songs that ignited his aggressively creative career. They were rewarded with the frequent concert-starter “Accidents will Happen” (likely because of its irresistible opening line, “I just don’t know where to begin”). But also “Green Shirt” and, before long, “Mystery Dance.”

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