The Elvis Costello Home Page

Bibliography: Articles

Review of concert from 2005-02-12: Bristol, Colston Hall - with the Imposters
Bristol Evening Post, 2005-02-14
Steve Harnell


11:00 - 14 February 2005
As well as his early spiky pop, he's dabbled in writing for string quartets, collaborated with Burt Bacharach and Paul McCartney, and even knocked out an opera. Backed by The Imposters, a superb band which includes former Attractions Steve Nieve on keyboards and Pete Thomas on drums, Saturday night's visit to the Colston Hall was a masterclass in British songcraft.

Although there's been many occasions in the past when an on-stage Costello announcement of "here's something from the new album" would have prompted a few stifled groans and raised eyebrows, his latest release The Delivery Man contains songs which rank among his very finest.

And far from settling into comfy middle age, he's still a songwriter with formidable bite.

His voice though has matured considerably over the years - and a more world-weary and weathered tone suits him well.

Kicking off with Blue Chair from mid-80s album Blood and Chocolate, he rattled through a cracking brace of openers which also included Radio Radio.

But if any proof was needed that he's still at the very top of his game, then it arrived with the one-two punch of Button My Lip and Country Darkness, both from the new album.

The former has a rollicking, swampy feel with its lyrics positively spat out by Costello. The latter was a beautifully rich ballad that Ryan Adams would give his right arm for.

Although Costello steers clear of radical Bob Dylan-style live reinterpretations of his material, there's still a playfulness on show. Needle Time is a case in point and features a bluesy breakdown where he gets to showboat with the crowd a little.

He has no real reputation as a guitarist to speak of but his lead and rhythm playing was outstanding - his muscular, aggressive style makes for great theatre.

Switching deftly between old and new material, Either Side Of The Same Town is followed by I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea (now known as the Ashley Cole Theme Tune in some quarters).

The acoustic strumalong of Good Year For The Roses remains a timeless gem too.

Steve Nieve puts in an appearance on the mellotron for a dramatic performance of When I Was Cruel No. 2 but in the main The Imposters, despite their undoubted musicianship, remain supportive rather than obtrusive - there's only one star of the show after all.

Seamlessly, the song morphs into a dubby version of Watching The Detectives which pushes the reggae influences on the track well to the fore.

It's no surprise that the rocking Monkey To Man finally gets the audience on its feet - although it does take them a leisurely 90 minutes to rouse from their Saturday evening lethargy.

There's A Story In Your Voice, although missing the superb vocals of Lucinda Williams which feature on the record, is another belter.

By now, Costello is in top gear and rattles through more highpoints from his past - I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down, High Fidelity and Pump It Up all feature in quick succession.

Then we get Shipbuilding. Has there ever been a better British protest song written than that? I don't think so. It's a moment that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

There's more to come though as Costello rips through Oliver's Army and (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding in a final onslaught where the tunes are all from the very top drawer.

He ends with the final track on the new album, The Scarlet Tide, bringing us right up to date. Costello may be something of a musical veteran but a dinosaur he most certainly is not. What a joy to see him in such fine fettle.