"If I'd known you'd be so enthusiastic, I'd have started earlier," joked Elvis Costello returning for the first of two encores.
If he'd realized how psyched this crowd of mostly middle-aged fans was, he would have had to start around 4:00 this afternoon and that seems a bit unlikely to have happened, wouldn't you say?
From the second the straw-hatted Elvis took the stage, the audience was in his thrall.
With the Sugarcanes behind him, we were treated to a peerless group of musicians including the incomparable Jerry Douglas on dobro (and mandolin) and Jim Lauderdale on guitar.
Adding to those magnificent music makers were violin, mandolin, upright bass and accordion.
I was lucky enough to happen on a couple of National regulars, the kind of people who see shows weekly and while we don't attend the same shows for the most part(although we have three upcoming shows in common), I can always enjoy talking to other live music lovers.
We became fast friends, holding each other's places in front of the sound booth during bar runs and bathroom breaks.
Not surprisingly, Costello's between-song banter was witty and smart. Introducing a song, he said, "For all you out there who think you can rid the world of alcohol by drinking it," and a general chuckle arose from the crowd.
When he finally had his electric guitar brought out, he cautioned the audience not to get too excited because, "it only has four strings."
Costello told the audience that he was raised "across the river from Richmond" and that his father had told him that "someday his name would be up in lights...in Richmond , VA."
This show had happened not a moment too soon for this crowd; I heard more than one person say that it was their first trip to the National.
Not to judge, but that's pathetic, people. How long has this venue been open now?
I never expected to hear Costello's unique voice live so I would have been happy with whatever he chose to sing.
I have to admit that I would have been thrilled beyond words to have heard anything from his collaborative CD with Burt Bacharach, but that would have been tough to pull off without an orchestra.
Of course, with a catalog the size of Costello's, composing a set list had to have been a challenge.
Several female George Jones fans near me about lost it when he launched into, "A good year for the roses;" apparently they were more familiar with Jones' cover of the song than Costello's.
To tease us, he saved his most well-known material for the two encores, including a slow-tempo version of "Every Day I Write the Book."
No surprise, the biggest crowd reaction came with "Allison," which became a sing-along and segued into the other Elvis' "Suspicious Minds;" the fans went absolutely crazy.
The closing song was "(What's so funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?"
For an audience which mostly drew from the '70s, there could not have been a better way to end the show.
No doubt they were also happy with its respectable ending time: 10:30 on a Saturday night.
New wave has mellowed into middle age but when the performance is as outstanding as this one was, it's easy to forgive such un-rock and roll behavior.
We are, after all, talking about Elvis Costello.
No telling, maybe he had better things to do in Richmond, VA after finally getting his name up in lights.
This fan would have happily made a few enthusiastic suggestions.