Elvis Costello, Royal Festival Hall, London
Wednesday 23 June 2010
"I've been wading through all this unbelievable junk/ And wondering if I should have given the world to the monkeys," he spits out with relish on "God's Comic" in this blistering solo set. It's about time we reclaimed our very own Elvis, and thanks to Richard Thompson's Meltdown we get a rare sighting (he now lives in New York with his wife, Diana Krall) of this British new-wave whiz.
The 55-year-old Costello bounces, Tigger-like, on to the stage in a sleek dark-grey suit. Glaring out from his bulky black specs he looks like a blend of Woody Allen and Phil Silvers, and his patter between songs is droll and engaging – he apologises for his American accent, he tells us that his dad is in the audience and jokes about making "two whistling solos in one show". But his singing persona is as raw and belligerent as ever, his head jerks violently away from the mic to emphasise an acerbic lyric, his leg occasionally kicks out and when he attacks his guitar his lips are defiantly downcast, like a child whose lollipop has plummeted down a ravine.
In his generous set – I counted 25 songs and it runs 25 minutes over – the highlights include an exquisite, stripped-down "Good Year for the Roses", sung like it belongs in a David Lynch/Wim Wenders film, a suitably vicious ("though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay/ It only took my little fingers to blow you away") "Watching the Detectives" and the gorgeous lament "Alison". But the truly bravura flourish is when he shuns his mic and sits on the edge of the stage to croon the blues-tinged "Slow Drag with Josephine". What a wonderful show-off Declan MacManus (his given name) still is.
In the past few years Costello has toured with Dylan, played with Springsteen and appeared on 30 Rock. All in the States. The UK doesn't get to see enough of this smart, literate, opinionated lyricist and sensational performer. For the finale, Richard Thompson joins him for his finest song, the sad, enraged "Shipbuilding". The rousing standing ovation that follows is wholly justified.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 5 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
The Crystal Maze: Richard O’Brien confirmed to return as more details revealed about show's rebooted format
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Guillaume Tell's gang-rape scene caused uproar at the Royal Opera House – but the portrayal of extreme sex and violence on stage is nothing new
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture