Elvis Costello & The Imposters at The Royal Albert Hall
Elvis Costello returns to the Royal Albert Hall with his Spectacular Spinning Songbook revue, a concept he first toured with in the late 80s, and which shows no signs of dating with three sold-out nights at the venue offering proof of his enduring popularity. An enormous game-show wheel with 40 song titles is spun by members of the audience, with the band then playing the track on which it lands. Or that’s the idea anyway. In reality, Elvis and his cohorts mostly play a pre-arranged set with some spontaneous extras. It’s all such fun that it scarcely matters what they do. There’s a go-go dancer in a cage made of beads, and at times Costello reprises his role of MC Napoleon Dynamite (the name later borrowed by the makers of the 2004 indie movie).
Then there are the hits. And what a lot of them we get in a two-and-a-half-hour set. Watching the Detectives, Oliver’s Army, Radio Radio and High Fidelity all rouse the audience, Costello doing his bit by cajoling people to stand up and dance. A fan brought up on stage reveals her name to be Alison, cue the eponymous track. A lengthy I Want You is followed by Tory-party baiting anthems Shipbuilding and Tramp the Dirt Down, neither losing their resonance in the intervening years. At 58, he still retains the power and anger of his youth, but more significantly the voice and solid musicianship of old.
The Imposters are as tight an outfit as you’d expect, Steve Nieve particularly impressive on keyboards, Hammond organ and grand piano. For the closing track he rushes behind the stage to play the gigantic house organ on (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, the notes reverberating through the hall and providing a spectacularly quirky end to an exceptional evening. Costello is a true one-off, and he’ll soon have a chance to cement his national treasure status on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. There aren’t many who deserve that acclaim more.
Photos: Lucia Hrda
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