Elvis Costello live @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre, 18.10.09
So my shamelessness paid off.
Hell. I was trying to remember during the show how many times I’ve seen Elvis Costello perform before.
Once, in LA at the Hollywood Bowl (around ’98) where myself and the PR were shamelessly drunk and singing along bawdily to him and Burt Bacharach (on piano) as they ploughed their way through our formative years: our drunkenness a source of some annoyance to those around, and frankly I would have punched me if I’d been sober.
Once in Brighton, in the (relatively) intimate surroundings of Brighton Dome (around 2005) while Charlotte was pregnant with Isaac, and he stunned us by turning in a blistering performance full of anger and wild guitar, ably assisted by The Attractions. In venom alone, he matched Neil Young.
…and? Not sure.
Once, last night in Brisbane – he was solo, with just an array of guitars and caustic wit for support: and man alive if he wasn’t on fire once… wait, on fire ain’t quite the right description. He was driven, certainly – so intense and OTT and energetic at the start that my wife was driven to ask if he was on speed – and he was a superb performer, hamming it up for those of us five rows from the front and those of us in the bathroom, and his reconstructed, looped, ultra-distorted version ‘Watching The Detectives’ would’ve done both David Thomas Broughton and Sonic Youth proud, but… on fire? Nah, he was having way too much fun for that.
Highlight one: a Ron Sexsmith- taught version of ‘Everyday I Write The Book’ which totally transformed the set (for the better): for me, an eye opener as I don’t even like the original.
Highlight two: a slowed-down, seditious version of ‘Ghost Train’ (from Get Happy!!) that proudly laid bare Costwello’s music hall roots.
Highlight three: well, “Detectives’ of course – the sheer refusal to be cowed by its legacy was worth the price of admission alone. (Um, I didn’t pay.) (Um, you know what I mean.)
Highlight four: the way he stopped the bawdy new song ‘Sulphur To Sugarcane’ after the line, “Everywhere I go, pretty girls call my name” evinced a very male response. Pure pantomime.
Highlight five: his deadpan “Here’s my special guest – me!”
Highlight six: ‘God’s Comic’ (from 1989’s Spike), for sure.
Highlight seven: ‘Man Out Of Time’ (from 1982’s Imperial Bedroom), of course. I say ‘”of course” but I’d quite forgotten how much I loved this album (yet again) till last night. I always think of his first six albums as the ones I love… but hell. Not quite right.
Highlight eight: the intro (and segue into ‘Jackie Wilson Says’) to ‘Radio Sweetheart’.
I’m writing a full review of the show for The Vine so keep an eye out over there, ‘k?