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Elvis Rocks The Building
May 21, 2012
Elvis Costello had a rousing reception when he returned to Merseyside for a special homecoming gig. Radio Clatterbridge presenter David Bawden was there to see the singer at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. Read his review below…
Elvis Costello provided a master class in performance on last nights revolver tour. From the moment you arrive in the theatre you are greeted by a carnival-esque stage, taken up predominantly by; a giant wheel with the names of Costello songs spanning the past four decades, a go-go dancing podium and a test your strength machine. The other main attraction on the stage (for me at least) was Costello’s six guitars lined up in front of the drum kit.
The set itself kicked off with a frenetic medley of songs after which the first lucky audience member, Jim, got a chance to spin the wheel which landed on the 1986 hit ‘Brilliant mistake’. Poor Jim was then ushered into the go-go dancing podium and left to dance for the rest of the audience during the rendition. The set list then went on to include Every Day I Write The Book, Accidents Will Happen, Shipbuilding, I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea and Oliver’s Army. But the highlights of the night had to be an extended version of Watching the Detectives in which a solo from Costello demonstrated a guitar playing ability he tends to refrain from on his album work, a version of She for most of which he was off stage and wandering around the audience and possibly the only version of Ferry Across the Mersey I’ve ever enjoyed (granted though the only other time I’ve heard it is when it is played on repeat whilst on the ferry across the Mersey).
In between sets, there was a relaxed and jovial attitude, with Costello talking to the audience on a wide range of topics, from the result of the Manchester City match to some of his more politically sensitive views that fans will be aware of from songs such as Tramp The Dirt Down. He actively encouraged audience participation throughout the show and plied anyone lucky enough to go on stage with cocktails and song dedications. When his band went off for an intermission, Costello remained on stage with an acoustic guitar and treated the audience to the stripped back, singer songwriter material he built his career on and is, in my opinion, one of a dwindling amount of performers who could keep his audience attention for so long with such a simple set up.
When the band returned, he cheated his own system and moved the wheel to point to Alison because he said he “felt like doing it”. After playing for nearly two and a half hours solid, the energy had not dropped and when he came out to do an encore that included big hits such as I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down and Pump it Up it was quite simply incredible. He fully deserved the standing ovation he received.
Of all the various gigs, concerts and festivals I have been to, for me nothing beats the sheer enthusiasm and enjoyment from both the performer and the audience at Elvis Costello’s concert. The unpredictable element of the song wheel created a sense of spontaneity and was a great way of keeping everyone interested and nearly every spin was an instantly recognisable hit. Singer songwriters today could do no better than to look to Costello when it comes to putting on a show.