Live Review: Elvis Costello

16th May - Brighton Centre

I’ve always sat on the fence with Elvis Costello. I love some of his songs, he’s a brilliant interviewer (his Spectacle TV show is a must see with some amazing guests), he’s an amazing musician and songwriter, he’s great live…but I just can’t bring myself to admit in public that I am a fan. However at 38, it’s finally time I came out!

Being a late starter with Costello, it wasn’t his music that caught my interest in him. It was two cameo appearances, he first in the Austin Powers film (with Burt Bacharach) that lead me to the duo’s awesome Painted From Memory album and a genius television moment with Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn in Two and a Half Men that finally made me explore his own solo material.As far as I am aware I now own all his albums and when alone and away from the public, I put them on and enjoy them, living in fear of meeting a fellow fan (for years) until I wandered into the Brighton Centre on Wednesday 16th May. From that moment on I realized that I wasn’t actually alone with my ‘problem’, other people liked his music too…didn’t see that coming!

If you are still of the opinion that he’s just a weird looking dude with silly glasses and a croaky voice then look away now, nothing I write will make you like him, in fact it’s more likely to make your heart terminate itself in anger, cause he’s bloody brilliant. His current tour turns live music into the most exciting of entertainment events and outshines any stadium act on their over the top audio/visual stage. It’s a simple idea, let fate decide the set! Bring up some half respectable MILF and let her spin the wheel and dance on stage to the tune. Now don’t get me wrong, the word MILF could suggest they are all tidy hot ladies with young children chosen ‘randomly’ as eye candy. Sadly not and being Brighton I can’t help but feel that they were all damaged goods and had the whole audience and their partner (or day release team) not been there then they’d have been showing Mr Costello more than a bit of chunky leg.

Anyway, no point over discussing the stage, The tour is called The Revolver Tour, and involves a vaudevillian Spinning Songbook (wheel of fortune anyone?) and picture says a thousand words, it’s a brilliant exercise in audience participation and Elvis delivered mid song chat with humour that I wasn’t expecting him to have. I don’t however enjoy my popstars getting political and sadly, on the odd moment that avenue was explored, it seemed mild frustration was felt by more than just myself in the audience. Pop stars are paid to entertain, if I wanted educating I’d go back to school. Luckily Elvis only touched base on this once or twice in a mammoth and entertaining two hours and fifty minute set which made it acceptable. However, the memorable moments are his stories about Johnny Cash and live mishaps such as the Kick Drum breaking during Oliver’s Army. During one song, Elvis frantically flicked through the lyric book hoping to find the words to verse two before he got there!

Highlight of the night was seeing Chris Difford of Squeeze take to the stage for an amazing rendition of Cool for Cats - pure class, top tune and wonderful to experience. The music was tight; the Imposters are great musicians and deserve top marks for sitting back and letting Elvis shine. I walked away genuinely amazed at the quality of Costello’s playing. He’s the real deal. Subtle when needed, powerful when others have let age mellow their anger (noticeable in the early, more Punk era songs). This was a historical tour of his catalogue with the likes of Radio Radio, Shipbuilding Watching The Detectives, Good Year For The Roses and Pump it Up all present and accounted for. There was no new material on offer, but that’s fine. We went wanting to be entertained. We got two and a half hours of pure entertainment. Elvis is a true gem in the world of music, and one experience not to miss, even if you're not a huge fan.

Watch Elvis performing Radio Radio, live (not from the Brighton concert, unfortunately, but you get the idea)