thu 25/04/2024

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

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall

The singer's maturing voice takes his songs to even greater heights

Elvis: familar songs with new twists

Georgie Fame opened the evening with a five-piece band, including the singer on his old Hammond organ. Favourites such as “Yeh, Yeh” were belted out to pleasing effect, as well as covers that included Van Morrison’s “Moondance” (Morrison played the packed-out BluesFest the previous evening). It was a strange, “extended” version that paid homage to a Paul Robeson number – Fame boomed out an African chant that bookended the song.

I’m not quite sure the unusual arrangement worked, but the band were superb and Fame’s voice – it’s been exactly 50 years since “Yeh, Yeh" was a major hit for him – in surprisingly fine fettle. Sax tenorist Alan Skidmore, who looked as if he might faint or throw up or both after an energetic solo skit, should have been given a standing ovation, or maybe a respirator.

Fame is an engaging raconteur with a laid-back style that’s warm and intimate, even in a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall. But when Elvis Costello bounded onto the stage wearing his fancy purple shoes (more of which later) and the two duetted on a Mose Allison number, an injection of that old familiar, nervy Costello-energy fired things up a bit.

Costello has an incredibly sharp wit, but it was his late father that mostly engaged him last night

Costello had invited his old pal Fame, but Costello’s musical entourage during his own set after the interval was somewhat slimmer. However, there was no loss to the songs, and it only added to the intimate sense of occasion. Most of the set would have been familiar to anyone who’s a fan of Costello’s early hits, and it was more than a nice surprise to find him accompanied by Steve Nieve, his bandmate from the earliest days of The Attractions. Nieve’s thrilling arrangement for “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” was one of the evening’s stand-out highlights, with Nieve trilling and pounding the piano keys to menacing and noir-ish effect, which made it sound a bit like Godley and Creme’s “Under Your Thumb”. Who’d have thought? It was impressive stuff. And if that didn’t quite get the audience going, “Watching the Detectives”,  “Oliver’s Army” and the jagged briliance of "Pills and Soap" surely did. 

Nieve, who only stuck around for the first half, didn’t say a word – he hardly lifted his head from the keyboard, in fact, though an energetic solo spot on a harmonica got a thunderous and deserved round of applause. But Costello punctuated his songs with stories and anecdotes throughout. These grew more expansive as the evening wore on. His purple shoes, by the way, were bought in Hamburg, as he was casually passing, he said, through the Reeperbahn, causing a few sniggers. Costello has an incredibly sharp wit, but it was his late father, musician Ross McManus, that mostly engaged him last night, with warm reminiscences spiked with wry humour.

As the evening drew to a close we were rewarded with a spine-tingling “Shipbuilding”, and Costello even sang a number unmic’d after the sound system was turned off for the night. He was clearly having a ball, and wasn’t in a rush to leave.

I last saw Costello about eight or 10 years ago, at the Royal Festival Hall. Then, his voice had never sounded better – richer, more expressive, than it had ever been, and that husky richness and sheer range took me by surprise. He’s now 60, but the power of his voice takes these songs to even greater heights.

Fisun Guner on Twitter

It was more than a nice surprise to find him accompanied by Steve Nieve, his bandmate from the earliest days of The Attractions


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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i beg to differ ... we're we at the same concert?!!! Georgie Fame and his band were in usual great form. I always loved Elvis Costello BUT.... This was awful! The mic was far too loud and the balance was all wrong. Doesn't he do sound checks anymore, or he should sack his sound manager! He was also very flat and singing very off tune at times which could be painful to hear. In the first half with Steve at the piano, it sounded as if Steve was playing his own virtuoso concerto and Elvis was possibly singing a completely different song to the supposed accompaniment. It all made for a very strange cacophony of noise. He did redeem himself in the second half a bit and his story telling and personality make up for a lot. I actually loved it when he sang un-mic'ed at the end. I did read reviews from his Dublin gig 2 weeks ago and many were complaining of the same thing. Such a talent but this night was so disappointing

I completely agree with you. I was so disappointed to hear how flat he was. After hearing him murder 'Good Year For The Roses' I made a swift departure. I don't think I was alone in leaving early....

Was the main act of this gig, 'The emperor's in his new purple shoes'.....I sat in sheer disbelief at what I was hearing…..I was gutted. Mr Costello was off key, managing to be both sharp and flat in many numbers, his voice was tired and strained, shouting were he could not reach the note, and afforded us little intonation, I felt so sad. Mr Costello may be a good lyricist, but perhaps it’s time to consider poetry instead of singing? His accompanying pianist, Steve, trying desperately to sound and indeed look like a concert pianist, didn’t make the cut either. I wondered if gesticulative over-the-top gestures were a distraction and cover-up from the poor playing, same so for Costello. But the crowd clapped on, why were they so completely in awe of this shoddy and somewhat charlatan performance? I kept thinking to myself………if she is side stage, what on earth must Diana Krall be thinking, I was thinking, ‘where’s my coat’. In sharp contrast, Georgie Fame and the Blue Tones, stole the show and made the £70 ticket worth every penny. These guys were the real deal. Their musicality shone through, seemingly effortlessly, no bravado required in any shape of form. I was in awe of this 71 year old voice, still rich and strong. As I left the gig…..early…..I bumped into another punter who looked as shell-shocked as me, she said, simply, 'my ears couldn’t take another moment of that noise, why are people buying into that c7@p?'. On the tube home, I marvelled at the joy that is Mr Fame ☺

We had to leave early as it was excruciating sitting listening to Elvis Costello. The tickets to this gig were my birthday present to my husband and we were really looking forward to the evening. Georgie Fame never disappoints and was his usual brilliant self but we were very very disappointed by Elvis Costello. The sound was harsh and murder on the ears and we could not endure any more so we left.

Your official review is accurate, the comments thereafter somewhat off beam. My experience of the night was of Steve Nieve and Costello electrically creative and magnificent in their playing and singing, and it mattered not to me that some of the notes didn't quite hit the pitch. A good day for the roses and also She were the two most difficult numbers where this happened but it's a live show ain't it,and I am happy to pay money for stuff that sometimes sounds live, it's like life, its live.. I was delighted with the show, I ve been a big Costello fan since 1978 and I've worn out Get Happy on vinyl. My girlfriend had never seen EC live before she was really impressed, and she has quite critical faculties, and has seen many a band. This was a very very accomplished evening in a setting that was well suited to the performers, in their element, at their peak, with a n educated and sophisticated audience that knew what it was all about.

I also endorse the opinion of those very disappointed in Mr MacManus's frequently off-key, strained voice and the painful sound balance. He is a terrific song writer, and a warm and witty person - but, boy, does he need a backing band. There was absolutely no light or shade in the monotonous, shouty performance. Steve N, the undoubtedly talented pianist, played at full pelt, full volume and with the same lack of tonal variation. The set was so dull and unvarying in its 'colour' that at least three people in my immediate vicinity were asleep. EC's remark about having had an orchestra on stage with him in the past, and his regret at the high cost, was illuminating. I couldn't help feeling he was saving on staging to fund his current lifestyle. I too regret the nearly £250 spent on four tickets to see him as it was possibly the most boring concert I've attended.

Shot with his own gun ? This Dad is not keeping mum - it was pretty awful. If you read the review of his last Albert Hall appearance, with his band. it makes you weep. Poster said solo - I really must learn to pay more attention. Georgie Fame - God bless him - saved the night for us. The above reviews are spot on. I have also seen Dylan murdering his material many times, but at least with a band to leaven the lack of heaven. I love EC's songs and his great bands, but the voice is not an Albert Hall solo voice. Also - sack the sound man.

Please note they're comments, not reviews. The review is Fisun's and it deserves engagement rather than just ignoring.

Maybe worth remembering that Costello isn't actually a blues singer but a pop singer who came out of the post punk era? I don't know, I'm beginning to feel that commentators here would complain if John Lydon was a bit 'off-key'. I grant, the RAH probably isn't the best venue for him - but I don't think it was the best venue for Georgie Fame, either - I certainly don't agree that Fame 'saved the day'. I'm miffed as to what 'light and shade' you all found in his early stuff with The Attractions. His voice is far richer than it was then, and he demonstrated that on the night. Did you all want a flawless blues sound? Btw, the muscianship was superb.

Not related to this particular concert but I left the Paul Rodgers show at the RAH because of the dreadful sound, loud and distorted. Quite unlike anything I have experienced at the RAH before, but now, reading these reviews, I wonder if there is a problem with the venue?

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