Frankly I can't calibrate it against the last time I saw him (which was a long time ago), but let's just say that the intervening years have only bolstered his artistry.
Cult heroes NRBQ (who I have never seen before) warmed up the crowded with their unique take on rock and roll or something to that effect. Definitely a great combo. But bring on Elvis !
Who did not disappoint. In keeping with the “rowdy rhythm” basis of When I Was Cruel, this was a guitar-and-drums-centric show, which faster tempos and perhaps more prominent and assertive rhythm guitar than some fans might have wanted or expected from the records. “Tear Off Your Own Head” seemed to be about 40% faster than the LP version, even faster than the version he did on Letterman on the first tour this spring. So there was a lot of energy and sharpness to the playing, with his encylopedic of songs bent to the modern beat combo styles .
One thing I like about Elvis is that instead of giving us dreaded JAMS to lengthen songs in concert, he splices songs together. So, ”Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” gets a transplant of “You've Really Got a Hold On Me,“ while “Allison” is extended with “Suspicious Minds” by that other Elvis.
To sate the loyal crowd, there were three encores, and I think this is where the best stuff happened. The mix of “When I Was Cruel” was a little overwhelming, but the effect was both akin to “Watching the Detectives” (which preceded it) and yet modern, especially when Elvis became Aphex-Twin-for-a-chorus and starting tweaking the loop upon which “Cruel” is built. (By the way, he also played a song with the same words in the chorus, but otherwise, much, much different.) ”I Want You" was given a similar warp in instrumental excursions, except with guitar this time, and I think this was the high point from a purely musical view; it's just one of his best songs, and it got an excellent working tonight. That was followed by “Almost Blue,” and pretty much was a perfect pair to end a great show.