Elvis Costello has been kidding us he isn’t angry since we were in nappies (well I was 16 when he issued “My Aim is True“). I was also 16 when I walked the length of the Holdenhurst Rd to see him perform on the Stiff Tour at Bournemouth’s Village Bowl and 34 years later I saw him play Bournemouth again. This the Revolver Tour, his band the Imposters (one short of the Attractions), not the Bowl but the BIC.
He set up the show like some 60’s Vaudeville Act complete with a wheel of fortune from which selected members of the audience suggested songs. He swaggered around like a circus ringmaster swinging a cane he claimed had Rupert Murdoch’s head on a pike.
In 1978 I had been pressed to the stage by 2000 pogo-ing punks clad in leather , showering beer , snot and phlegm over my head. Costello played for twenty minutes.
Times have changed, I was politely asked to sit down when I stood to applaud the great man’s arrival. Costello played for two and a half hours.
What a thunderbox of a set he played. Virtually everything from This Year’s Model, large chunks of My Aim is True, Punch the Clock , Imperial Bedroom and that album with the elephants on it which contains Oliver’s army.
Not everything was perfect. Steve Naive sounded a bit cheesy in the latter stages of Alison, the lack of a lead/rhythm guitar combo hurt Watching the Detectives and we had an overlong Wheels of Fire with a Van Morrison Style Blues inserted in the middle.
Put those minor quibbles aside, medleys such as Please Please Me which morphed into No Dancing and Be My Baby was brilliant. The band of Bruce Thomas and Steve Naive, supported by a suitably low-key session bassman were beat perfect. Thomas’ drumming has lost none of its urgency while Naive has adopted the new technologies at his fingers to produce layers of sound that overcame the four-peice restrictions.
The Imposters performed a Chuck Berry classic . Costello brought out a Gibson Super 400 the one in the picture above this, his playing has improved some since he posed below with his strat. But it was with his acoustic that he seemed most at home.
Costello was loquacious – his verbal interplay with the audience suggested that he has finally accepted he can talk as good as he writes. Apparently he’d sung “Chuck Berry” to Leonard Cohen and Chuck Berry at the song-writers awards in Boston (such is the status of the man- I was sorry when he told us “I didn’t win”).
And he seems to have lost all inhibitions with his audience, steaming round the auditorium, dancing with fans in a go-go cage and chatting up the female contestors who all turned out to be his sisters.
It was only the spectre of Margaret Thatcher entered the auditorium that the anger returned.; a stunning final half an hour saw Costello rattling though classics that included Green Shirt, Pump it up as well as the great hymn Ship Building and the angst of Tramp The Dirt Down. He finished with Oliver’s Army and a truly memorable “What’s so Funny Bout Peace Love and Understanding”.
The man is still angry, he’s still got it and if you get a chance to see him on tour- go for it -short of Leonard Cohen at the Hop Garden this summer, I don’t expect to see a better gig.
- Elvis Costello – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Elvis Costello, SECC, Glasgow: review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Elvis Costello & The Imposters (seattleweekly.com)
- Sluggo’s Video Of The Day: Elvis Costello “Watching The Detectives” (kroq.radio.com)
- Elvis Costello Concert Review: Spin The Wheel! (socyberty.com)
- Bringing out the big wheel, Elvis Costello highly entertaining at the Hard Rock (pbpulse.com)
- Listen: Elvis Costello, Keith Richards, Paul Simon, Salman Rushdie pay tribute to Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen at JFK Library (thephoenix.com)
- Elvis Costello – The Return of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook (thevpme.com)
- Elvis Costello revels as ringmaster of rock variety show (theweek.co.uk)
- Elvis Costello Performs “Brilliant Disguise” + “Fire” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (wcbsfm.radio.com)
- Elvis Costello and the Imposters: The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook (Review) (popmatters.com)