Ahead of Dallas concert, 5 songs tracking Elvis Costello’s sonic journey

Wearing sunglasses and touching his head, Elvis Costello faces the camera

Elvis Costello. Photo: Mark Seliger

Perhaps it’s because Elvis Costello, born Declan MacManus in London 69 years ago, has always embraced reinvention. His music from the late 1970s until today has always felt fresh and vibrant.

His presentation style has mellowed a bit over the decades — the brash young punk who upended expectations starting out is a tad more measured now — but the quality of his songwriting craft has only grown more impressive as his career has continued.

Costello will be in town Friday at Dallas’ Majestic Theatre with the Imposters, along with guest guitarist Charlie Sexton, as part of his ongoing “7-0-7” tour. To help get you ready for that eclectic appearance, here is a playlist charting Costello’s sonic evolution over his nearly half-century career.


Taken from his 1977 debut My Aim is True (and which features a lyric giving the record its title), Costello plays against type on this delicate, plaintive ballad, laced with some truly gorgeous guitar work. Given his reputation for figuratively spitting acid and going for broke in his early days, this gentle single is a pleasantly disorienting standout.

“High Fidelity”

This giddy blast of a tune — the entire thing is over in 140 seconds — is found on 1980’s Get Happy!!, Costello’s fourth studio album, and his third collaboration with the Attractions as his backing band. “High Fidelity” is a desperate love song, but one which is almost impossible to hear once and not instantly press repeat. This, more than most Costello tracks, almost perfectly splits the difference between his frenetic and heartfelt sides.


Contemplative Costello is nearly always a good bet. This slow-burn masterpiece from his eighth studio album, 1983’s Punch the Clock (his seventh teaming with backing band the Attractions, for those keeping score), is a bracingly adult slice of soulful pop-rock, anchored by Costello’s aching vocals, a languorous piano and some beautiful trumpet flourishes.

“Complicated Shadows”

Costello spent much of the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s hopscotching across a range of genres, dabbling in everything from classical to jazz and back again, before finding his way to the Fort Worth-bred producer T Bone Burnett for Costello’s 25th studio album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. This 2009 LP is decidedly more stripped down and earthbound, as Burnett helps peel away all but the essentials to focus the listener on Costello’s peerless songwriting and lived-in vocals.

“Penelope Halfpenny”

Costello’s most current studio album — his 32nd  — is 2022’s The Boy Named If, which found the singer-songwriter back in spitfire mode, cranking out a series of gripping, jagged rock songs, exemplified by this pogo-ing bit of bliss titled “Penelope Halfpenny.” That Costello stands on the cusp of turning 70 and sounds so vibrant is thrilling.

Elvis Costello & the Imposters at Majestic Theatre, Dallas. 8 p.m. Jan. 19. Tickets are $79-$129.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.