thu 25/07/2024

Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Royal Albert Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Royal Albert Hall

Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Royal Albert Hall

The Beloved Entertainer surges through the hits and selections from the Spinning Songbook

Elvis Costello: pushing 60 but sounding indestructible

Comebacks may be all the rage but Elvis Costello just keeps on going. It's the third year running that he has taken his band The Imposters on the Revolver Tour, featuring The Spectacular Spinning Songbook: a giant carnival wheel of songs which audience members are brought on stage to spin and dictate the set list.

Not everything is left to chance, however, and the evening began with a rollicking medley of “Welcome to the Working Week”, “No Action”, “Strict Time”, “Accidents Will Happen” and “Next Time Round”. In what was the middle of three consecutive nights at the Albert Hall, you might expect a certain amount of going through the motions, but Costello’s energy and engagement were there right from the off.

There was certainly an element of the Greatest Hits show to the proceedings

Backing band members Steve Nieve (piano, Hammond organ, keyboards), Pete Thomas (drums) and Davey Faragher (bass, backing vocals) were with him every step of the way. Though Costello has become a prolific collaborator and musical chameleon over the years, he has long-term relationships with these particular musicians, especially Nieve and Thomas, with whom he has been working on and off for over 30 years. Nieve’s tendency to overcomplicate things is an acquired taste, but it is also such a recognisable part of the Elvis Costello sound that you’d miss him if he were replaced by an obedient session musician. As for Thomas’s contribution, especially on drum-led songs like “No Action” and “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea”, it is hard to overstate – he had it in 1978 and he’s still got it now.

Costello’s voice seems to be holding up just fine too. He may be pushing 60 but, towards the end of a set lasting two and a half hours, he was still able to produce an anguished performance of “I Want You” and come back for a series of encores which included the seminal “Shipbuilding” and finished up with the riotous “Pump it Up” and “Peace, Love and Understanding”. He sounded indestructible throughout.

There was certainly an element of the Greatest Hits show to the proceedings, but a few newer tracks made it in, such as “A Slow Drag With Josephine” and “Jimmie Standing in the Rain” from his latest country-inspired album National Ransom, and they held their own in the mix.

There were quirks, not least a panoply of guitars and guitar sounds, not all of which gelled where they were deployed, and a few which could do with being retired altogether. The twangy Fender Jaguar which fitted “Watching the Detectives” perfectly was a disaster when power-strummed through “Oliver’s Army”, for instance, while the distorted acoustic guitar was pretty unpleasant in all contexts.

All in all, it was a crowd-pleasing show with no genuine surprises but plenty of highlights and no duds. If anything, it suffered from being too polite, a middle-aged crowd in an all-seated venue being a tough nut to crack atmosphere-wise. Perhaps in future visits to his home town, he may consider alternative venues, and won’t find himself having to exhort people to stand.

It was a crowd-pleasing show with no genuine surprises but plenty of highlights and no duds


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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