First Night: Costello delivers a high-energy attack combined with mathematical precision

Elvis Costello
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With his best album in more than a decade, The Delivery Man, just released, it was fitting that Elvis Costello should pick Glasgow for his only UK performance of the year.

With his best album in more than a decade, The Delivery Man, just released, it was fitting that Elvis Costello should pick Glasgow for his only UK performance of the year.

Mercury prize winners Franz Ferdinand, along with indie favourites Snow Patrol and Belle & Sebastian, have given Scotland's second city a new-found eminence. With The Delivery Man, Elvis has rediscovered the pungent alacrity of his best work. Since he emerged as the bug-eyed belligerent troubadour of punk, Costello has covered a wide stylistic territory. The worry, for those holding the tickets, must have been which Elvis would show up. Could it be the glutinous balladeer of North or the string quartet and orchestral composer of this year's other Costello album, Il Sogno.

The appearance of Elvis in tight-fitting purple jacket spitting out the vitriolic title "How To Be Dumb" immediately allayed any fears. From here until the set close of "Pump It Up" and "Oliver's Army", it was a show that concentrated on the part of Elvis that is the eternal punk outsider.

The ballistic fury of drummer Pete Thomas and the seething dervishes of keyboard player Steve Nieve ensured that this was high energy attack combined with mathematical precision. From the intense claustrophobic blast of "No Action" on to the dizzyingly high speed take on "Radio Radio", he proved able to make old songs as potent and timely as new ones.

Like one of his obvious mentors, Bob Dylan, this incarnation of Costello proved able to seize on his most fertile period.

A splendid take on Leon Payne's "Psycho" showed the roots of material that makes The Delivery Man so engrossing. On the title track, Naove's melodica and Elvis's frazzled guitar captured the thick atmosphere of fear and rebuke. Miming its fantasy images of "Elvis and Jesus'' brilliantly, Costello created a curdled male fantasy. Introducing "Monkey To A Man", he described it as a gift handed to him by our Simian forbears. "We should never, on any account, in any country ... vote for anybody who is a disgrace to the theory of evolution,'' he explained.

There were intriguing dips into his past. "High Fidelity" and "Blame It On The Cain" proved that were incendiary displays of rock'n'roll at its most euphoric. But an overlong jam on "Blood And Chocolate's Uncomplicated" loses momentum. It is an unnecessary device as, returning for his first encore, "Ivy", he delivers a marked contrast to the blitzkrieg that preceded.

Tonight, along with his band The Impostors, Costello recaptured his role as rock's perennial outsider, and it suited him just fine.

Gavin Martin

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