The show started before a musician set foot on the stage, people who arrived and took their seats in plenty of time were rewarded with the giant vintage television video backdrop and on the television was an anthology of Elvis Costello hits in chronological order which was quite effective and set the atmosphere straight off.
The warm up act were a trio from Atlanta, Georgia two sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell and a drummer Marlon Patton, delivering southern roots based music that had a raw zing that made every song delivered have its own personality and energy. They shared how they wrote the songs, and about family including how the band’s name is a tribute to their Gt.Gt.Gt. Grandfather a cousin of Edgar Alan Poe, the one and only Larkin Poe. The importance of family and of relationships shone through as they played songs from their debut album Kin, including Jailbreak. The sound was steeped in blues with a rousing version of Leadbelly’s Black Betty they bought a wonderful sound with clear vocals, stylish lap steel and electric guitar. The sisters were a tour-de-force entertaining in their own right and warmed up the musical vibe superbly at St David’s Hall.
Elvis Costello took centre stage to a rousing cheer, the left to the right Detour had been illuminated all evening; now the light to the right told us as in a recording studio Elvis Costello was ‘On Air’ the night of live music adventure was beginning.
Straight onto the stage hitting the ground running with Red Shoes and the hits and favourites just flowed on. The set was stripped down with solo acoustic versions of so many songs we love; this is the power of a solo artist holding the audience’s attention. Surrounded by guitars, grand piano and stage props Elvis was determined that we were going to have a fun time. Between the music he shared anecdotes about his family, musical upbringing and the source of his inspiration as on the double offering of Church Underground and Stella 45 unfolded.
His wit was sharp and the laughs from the packed house were genuine, we could relate to the television he was talking about and felt the politics he was sharing no one says ‘our brave nurses’ as he sang Oliver’s Army to everyone’s joy the whoops and cheers hung across the auditorium followed by Shipbuilding.
His voice was as ever his own distinctive tone that shaped and wormed its way around and above the amazing tone he pulled from every guitar he played or when he sat at the grand piano Elvis was entertaining with the full box of musical fireworks tonight. I loved the sub-set when he sat on a simple chair with guitar and foot resting on the monitor a laid back back-porch approach creating an intimacy with the large audience in a large auditorium this was full of amusing dialogue and reflective musings, a true feel of a one-man show as he stepped in front of microphones and with simplest of guitar accompaniment sang virtually A Capella version of She the music antennae at the back of my neck tingled.
For over two hours he sang and everyone just relived our music memories this was a powerful performance centred around an amazing singer songwriter it was full of energy with clever use of loops Watching the Detectives. He bought a relevance to the city and now with images of Andy Fairweather Low; Stan Stennet, Dave Edmunds and then the powerful image of Elvis Costello pointing to a picture of Charlotte Church and her anti-austerity campaign Wow a moving moment full of authenticity.
He then was joined by the Lovell sisters and the music flowed on with a renewed energy. Everyone was then treated to another sub-set when Elvis and the Lovell sisters left the stage all fell silent and then they re-appeared inside the television we were back watching collectively around the T.V. on a Saturday night when there was only two channels. We heard Kinder Murder and so much more. They left the stage but more was to come with an encore ending the evening to rousing applause and with many now out of their seats down at the front chanting and dancing to Peace Love and Understanding. Tonight was live music at its best.