Elvis Costello & The Imposters York Barbican 17th June 2013

“Gavotte, garrotes, Cotillions and slow Arabesques”: Elvis Costello & The Imposters, York Barbican, 17 June 2013

“Rock & Roll was invented in Hartlepool”, declared Elvis Costello at the York Barbican on Monday night. One thing’s for certain: there’s no one around who can do Rock & Roll quite like him.

The 13 Revolvers Tour is Costello’s second in as many years in his native land, contrary to his threat that he would never return to Blighty. The show is a revival of one first conceived in the eighties – forty songs spanning four decades on a giant wheel, with audience members invited to spin, improvising the set list as the gig progresses.

Proceedings commence with I hope you’re happy now before a race through Nick Lowe’s Heart of the City, Mystery Dance, and the Saturday Night Live-immortalised Radio Radio.

Then Napoleon Dynamite, Costello’s 1986 alter-ego, makes his first appearance, dragging people from the crowd on stage to spin the wheel for the next song, (I don’t want to go to) Chelsea.

The second spinner requests Charles Aznavour’s She. EC declares that he “fucking hates the song”, but acquiesces, noting that hiring him as a romantic crooner for the Notting Hill soundtrack made as much sense as casting George Clooney as the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The spinner then gets down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend on stage. (Thank God she said yes, otherwise love-struck Pete Thomas might have been crying into his drum kit.)

The two-and-a-half-hours show is outstanding. This a man whose thirty-odd albums range from punk to country, R&B to jazz, chamber music to opera. He brings this musical encyclopaedia from the studio to the stage, with I still have that other girl from the glorious Painted from Memory album (written and recorded with Burt Bacharach), sitting perfectly alongside songs such as Veronica, one of his compositions with Paul McCartney from a quarter of a century ago.

Steve Nieve showed how he’s probably the greatest keyboardist in British popular music, pounding the ivories on Shot with his own gun and later underlining the tragic irony in Shipbuilding. Davey Faragher is a superb bass guitarist, adding the backing vocals Bruce Thomas rarely offered prior to The Attractions’ evolution into The Imposters. And the number of superlatives necessary to describe Pete Thomas’s drumming would seem improbable unless witnessed live.

Best moment? Tramp the Dirt Down, Costello’s imagining of Margaret Thatcher’s death. Remarkably, he managed to retain humanity in a song imploring God to preserve him long enough to witness her demise: Elvis said he could never wish another human being to suffer, drawing comparisons with the passing of his father, Ross MacManus (of the Joe Loss Orchestra fame). Yet the caveat was that the lyrics’ bitterness remains horribly relevant. Applicable clichés included “shiver down spine”.

With the Pyramid Stage beckoning next Saturday, Elvis is still King.

Set list
1. I hope you’re happy now
2. Heart of the City
3. Mystery Dance
4. Radio Radio
5. (I don’t want to go to) Chelsea
6. Bedlam
7. She
8. Accidents Will Happen
9. You Little Fool
10. The Beat
11. Shot with his own gun
12. I still have that other girl
13. Oliver’s Army
14. Watching the Detectives
15. Less than Zero
16. Two Little Hitlers
17. One Bell Ringing
18. Veronica
19. Shipbuilding
20. Slow Drag with Josephine
21. Jimmie Standing in the Rain
22. Tramp the Dirt Down

Encore
23. Alison
24. Strict Time
25. I can’t stand up for falling down
26. High Fidelity
27. Pump it Up
28. (What’s so funny ‘bout) peace, love and understanding?

A big thank-you to Liam Finn for this review. And congratulations to him achieving a First from Cambridge!! Our reviewer’s are certainly of a higher class these days!!!!

LINKS:

ELVIS COSTELLO: http://www.elviscostello.com/

SHIPBUILDING: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LNB6M7yTBo

By peter on June 23, 2013


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