Material: This was a very heartfelt mix of both radio-friendly and completely danceable numbers interspersed between slower alternative-pop ballads. The best of the bunch was “A Beautiful Mystery” from Costello’s latest album. The song shows her growth as an artist, highlighting her ability to create upbeat songs with a pop-punk sensibility. Costello’s lyrics tend to gravitate toward the adventures of youth, both the uncertainty and promise of the future. That is best exemplified by “New York Graffiti,” which is based upon her moving to that city to pursue her dreams at the tender age of 18.
Musicianship: It is notable that Costello performed with musicians outside of her regular band for this show. Despite this, it was clear that the group did its best part to showcase Costello on her keys, as this element was always the focal point. Together they offered nice little touches, like brushes and rim work by Stepro, bouncy spot-on bass lines from Spiker and Tressler’s subtle lap steel tones. Costello herself really got into the spirit of her music with several rockin’ glissandos. Overall the mix was very good within the small space of the venue.
Performance: Costello presented herself as a singer-songwriter and introduced each song thoughtfully. She seemed to channel her inner Dolores O'Riordan and really projected well throughout the performance. At points the choice to keep several verses stripped down seemed to lose the audience a bit, but overall the set’s energy had a good ebb and flow. Costello encouraged group singing from her audience for her finale, but unfortunately the anticipated increase in volume didn’t manifest well, possibly due to the dynamics not coming down to a low enough whisper for the band to have something to build up from.
Summary: What is most exciting about Costello’s music is that it not only has a positive message, but is also entirely danceable. The set list is the perfect balance between faster and slower songs. Costello also keeps things doubly interesting with tempo changes within each individual song. The only room for improvement here could be some song transitioning: When do we merge straight from one song into another? When do we let the outros to the songs sizzle out versus just ending them on a punchy abrupt note? Mixing up these options would only strengthen an already tight set.
The Players: Katie Costello, vocalist, keyboard; Mark Stepro, drums; John Spiker, bass; Adam Tressler, guitar.
Venue: Hotel Cafe
City: Hollywood, CA