Elvis Costello, Dome Concert Hall, Brighton
by Mike Donovan
Would the angry young man of the New Wave have smiled when his guitar lead loosened to create enough static to scar a couple of numbers in this opening gig of his latest UK tour?
And you wonder whether the skinny, geeky gunslinger with thick-rimmed specs would have led a Brighton crowd in a chorus of I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside and implored it to give "home town boy", his drummer Pete Thomas, a rousing welcome home.
But if you think Elvis Costello has gone soft and watered down the intensity of his music, you can think again.
His performance of The Delivery Man, the title track of his new record, oozed the menace of the subject (a murderer called Abel) and passion while showing why Declan McManus' song-writing would put him in any music Hall of Fame.
Robbie Williams won the best song for the past 25 years at the Brits on the same night as this gig for Angels. But those who voted should have been at a packed Dome to discover all the Costello numbers performed from 1980, which were lessons in the art of songwriting.
His three-piece backing band, The Imposters, with Steve Nieve's keyboard wizardry, Thomas' no-nonsense pounding on his kit and the uncomplicated bass, played by newcomer Davey Faragher, complemented Costello's deep, powerful and sensitive vocals.
The sound problems early on were soon sorted as EC warmed up and he neatly bookended his 28-year recording career, going from Abel to "his brother" as he sung Blame It On Cain from his first album, My Aim Is True.
There was something for most people in the balanced set, which encompassed rock (Pump It Up), pop (Radio Radio, Watching The Detectives), country (A Good Year For The Roses) and protest (Shipbuilding) and the tracks off The Delivery Man underlined his jaw-dropping consistency.
EC's frame has filled out but, with his tight-fitting dark suit and tinted shades, he remains instantly recognisable. He seems jollier, yet the angry young man is still inside his 50-year-old body.