Review of concert at Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo on 1999-02-07
Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve
The Daily Yomiuri, 1999-02-26, from Yomiuri Sihimbun 1999-02-11
- Darren Hargreaves


Ladies and gentlemen...Elvis has left the arena

1999-02-26 The Yomiuri Shimbun / Daily Yomiuri
Copyright(C) 1999 The Daily Yomiuri
from YOMIURI SHIMBUN, February 11, 1999

Darron Hargreaves
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, Feb.7

A lot of aging rock 'n' roll stars don't know enough to quit while they're ahead. You would think Elvis Costello, a very bright chap, would know better, but he doesn't. Add that to the list of things his fans can be grateful for, because Costello has made the transition from arena rocker to small-venue, hard-edged crooner very, very smoothly. Somehow, you can't see Sammy Hagar or Robert Plant pulling that off.

Somehow, you don't even want to think about it. But Costello has the intelligence, the panache and the versatility to shine at anything he does musically. Give the man a barrel organ and a monkey in a funny hat and he'd make a mint on the street corners of Tokyo. And he seems to be loving the tamer, yet more personal scene. A grinning Costello and pianist Steve Nieve came back out for four encore numbers Sunday night at Nakano Sun Plaza, whipping the crowd of about 1,500 into increasingly frenzied cheering with each appearance. Add up the evening's song list and the tally came to 27 or 28 tunes, an honest day's work for a guy who probably could have got off the hook with a much weaker effort--even more so when considering that he is recovering from a throat infection that caused him to postpone two Australian dates. Costello, who recently teamed with Burt Bacharach to put out the critically acclaimed Painted [For] Memories, has been touring with "Professor Steve Nieve," as he introduced him, for months now. "We've been playing from the fjords of Norway to Puerto Rico [Dominican Republic - Ed] to the clubs in the United States and here in Japan," said Costello, who played at Fujifest last summer. Those who happened to catch their act at Fujifest may have been a little put off. With Costello playing an acoustic guitar accompanied only by Nieve on a cavernous stage, the act seemed way, way out of place. Sandwiched in with racketeers like Garbage, Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, Beck and the like, it was like two guys in tuxedos showing up for a gang rumble. The infinitely more intimate Sun Plaza was much more suited to the simpler style Costello now favors, which showcases the talents of Nieve almost on a par with his own. Nieve is an incredibly gifted and emotive musician. He plays with his head hunched down between his shoulders, and it bobs up and down while his torso sways in time to the music. With his long, talon-like fingers speeding and picking over the keyboard, he looks not unlike a turkey vulture hard at work on a tasty piece of carcass. Teamed with Costello's brilliant songwriting, his one-of-a-kind voice, and some guitar filler, it makes for a rich experience, especially when it is obvious Elvis is really enjoying himself and throwing himself into the show.

From the opening chords of "Accidents," on to "Chelsea," a handful of his Bacharach co-ops through to encore numbers like "Almost Blue," "Detective, "Veronica" and "Shipbuilding," it was clear that Costello has moved on to smaller, but perhaps, better things.