The Times (London)
October 08, 2004
David Sinclair at Barrowland, Glasgow
WHISPER it, but Elvis Costello turned 50 earlier this year. With an industrious flourish that is typical of the man, the anniversary was marked by the simultaneous fruition of two wildly divergent projects: a dodgy orchestral work, Il Sogno, commissioned by the Italian dance company Aterballeto, and a superb rock album, The Delivery Man, that is closer in spirit to the work of his early years in the aftermath of punk than almost anything he has recorded since.
While Costello retains a Napoleonic vision of his own talents as unlimited by boundaries of genre or taste, let alone ability, his core musical strength remains his talent for getting a gripe off his chest by writing three-minute songs with a hook around every corner. So it was a genuine pleasure to find him appearing, once again, without string sections or jazz songbooks or whatever the latest fad might be. Instead, for his only British date this year, he was accompanied by that leanest of rock’n’roll units the Imposters: Pete Thomas on drums, Davey Faragher on bass and backing vocals, and Steve Nieve, resplendent in a tartan kilt, on keyboards.
While Costello no longer has the wiry energy of his youth, he performed with an impressive, dogged intensity as he briskly picked his way through a mixture of songs old and new. No Action and Radio Radio sped past in a nostalgic blur, while Blame it on Cain even inspired an oddball guitar solo from the maestro himself, which flew all over the shop in four bars flat.
Even so the immediate appeal of new songs such as the rocking Monkey to a Man and the slow-burning Country Darkness ensured that the energy levels remained high.
But for Costello, enough is never quite enough. Having led the band off the stage to a tremendous roar of approval, he returned for a stretch of “encores” that lasted longer than an entire gig would have done back in 1978. He could have finished on a high at several points: after an exquisite version of Good Year for the Roses, perhaps, or a poignant Shipbuilding, or even the romping, country-rock swing of There’s a Story in Your Voice, from the new album. But he could never quite bring himself to close it out.
As the journey became subject to long, increasingly indulgent detours in numbers such as Needle Time, the effect of the show had become slightly dissipated by the time the band left the stage for a second time. However, with a final blast of Oliver’s Army, (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, and Pump it Up, momentum was restored and closure achieved, at last.