Review of concert at Stockholm Water Festival, 1996-08-04
Dagens Nyheter, 1996-08-06
- Harald Bergius; translated by Ulf Gotthardsson []


Elvis Costello Full of Pranks

(Harald Bergius, Dagens Nyheter, 1996-08-06)

Elvis Costello is in a brilliant mood and the Stockholm evening is beautiful. The sun sets behind the Town Hall, hot-air balloons hang high in the sky and the audience smiles. It's far from full - the concert collides with the Olympic finals in handball - but judging from the result, both in Atlanta and here on Riddarholmen, we who chose Costello made the right choice.

It's a small scale, yet grandiose show he offers. He is full of musical pranks and imaginative anecdotes and he makes the songs speak clearly and clean. The harsh, somewhat hoarse voice is only accompanied by Elvis' own steel string guitar and Steve Nieve's imaginative and keen grand piano.

First I think that much of Costello's strength - the finger-tip feeling for the clever melody and the permanent ironic blink - disappears in this small format. He makes every tone, every word, reach a weight that takes him away from the pop format where he is one of the most talented to be heard.

But as a dark cloud, Costello bursts out and becomes sunshine. He almost laughs and plays twenty-one songs, most of them from the latest record "All This Useless Beauty", but also old favourites like "Alison", "Veronica" and "Watching The Detectives". The cooperation with Nieve's deft fingers works perfectly. Together they dare to improvise and re-create the songs.

Before a wonderful version of "God's Comic", Costello tells his story about his vision of heaven. God, the holy spirit and "that other fellow" look at 16 TV channels, thinking about what Elvis Presley would have sung if he was alive. Costello makes miniature imitations of Presley singing Duran Duran's "Rio", U2's "I Still Haven't Found..." and Blondie's "Breaking Glass" [Heart of Glass], but he stops when he reaches the swear-words: "No, Elvis wouldn't have sung that... but I do! I'm the mean, evil Elvis!" And the audience laughs. Because this night, Elvis Costello was very nice to his audience. He played the songs we wanted to hear and he did it well!