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Elvis Costello talks Larkin Poe, solo show and new musical

Elvis Costello has plenty to talk about — his enjoyment of the intimacy and looseness of his solo show; his appreciation of fans who treasured his memoir “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink” upon its release last year, prompting a paperback run; the musical he’s writing that he hopes will play at least near Broadway, if not on it immediately.

But a topic that prompts an audible lift in his smooth British voice is Larkin Poe, the Atlanta duo of Rebecca and Megan Lovell.

The sisters have opened for Costello — and joined him onstage for a few songs — on several tours, and again will share a musical space with him Tuesday at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, when Costello unwraps his Detour show.

Costello recalled meeting the Lovells about a decade ago — “which seems incredible to say because they’re so young,” he added with a chuckle — when he saw them perform at North Carolina’s MerleFest.

Rebecca and Megan were joined by sister Jessica at the time and the band’s sound concentrated on roots music.

Shortly afterward, Jessica left the band and Rebecca and Megan joined Costello on tour in Europe.

“I remember walking in during their sound check and I said, ‘Who is that playing Lynyrd Skynyrd?’ and it was them rehearsing! They had a completely new style. It was great. I love it,” he said recently, calling from his part-time home in Vancouver.

Costello’s musical romance with the Lovells has extended to recording songs with the New Basement Tapes (a T Bone Burnett-produced group featuring Costello, Jim James and Marcus Mumford, among others) and having the sisters put their haunting harmonies on some of the new tunes for Costello’s musical.

“Touring with Elvis was such an educational and mentoring experience,” Rebecca Lovell said earlier this summer.

It’s a mutual admiration society, to be sure, and Costello, 62, is anticipating his return to Atlanta, which is the final night of this current solo run before he takes off again with his band, the Imposters.

“I’m aware that people buy tickets knowing they’ll hear certain songs, but then I can show people things maybe they don’t know. That way you get a whole evening, the high wire act of it,” he said. “The set, it’s a playground on which we gamble. What I don’t want is a tight script. I might tell the same story leading into a song, but that might lead me to new songs, unreleased songs, covers — all are part of the story. You can’t tell from night to night.”

Costello’s stage is stocked with a piano, ukulele and acoustic and electric guitars. Sometimes he sits down, not because of weariness but, “when you sit, you play differently.” Sometimes he plays his beloved 1977 ballad “Alison” in the audience and, “if the mood takes me, off I’ll go on some stairs.”

He’s been performing in Atlanta since 1977 — in 2015 he played Chastain Park Amphitheatre and swung through the Variety Playhouse on his book release tour — and has an impressive recollection of his area touring history.

“I’ve had great nights at the Tabernacle, played the Fox (Theatre) many years. You’ve got some good addresses there,” he said. “The set that we bring, it’s like redesigning the theater, anyway. It’s lovely to play in beautiful, old theaters with history, but sometimes the venues that don’t yet have that history, it doesn’t really matter. When the lights go down, it’s about you and the audience.”


Elvis Costello. With Larkin Poe. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. $41-$96. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on