“FLYING PIGS? WHO NEEDS THEM?.”

ELVIS COSTELLO & STEVE NIEVE AT VOSS IDRETTSHALL,
SUNDAY, APRIL 5TH, 1998

by Sverre Ronny Saetrum

Strolling on-stage at precisely 7 p.m. to a packed auditorium and the
pre-taped sound of some “light” jazz doodling is Mr.Elvis Costello, looking
uncannily like another EC (Eric Clapton) in his shorn-hair, scraggy beard,
hip-baggy jacket and horn-rims with yellow-tinted glasses. With Steve Nieve
placed at the grand piano it’s showtime and straight into “Why can’t a man
stand alone”, followed by a brief : “Good evening, Voss“,this is an old
song that we played fast when we were young and ugly, but this is how we
think of it now”, and it’s “Temptation”. Strapping on his guitar we were
treated to a positively fierce version of “Talking in the dark”, followed
by a moving “Poor fractured Atlas”.  Then an awesome “Red shoes” which
apparently the audience recognised and cheered wildly at and sang along to.
Quieting down a bit it’s “Still too soon to know” and then the Nieve &
Costello co-written “Passionate fight”, introduced by Elvis telling us the
story-line, then he’s stalking the stage, “wearing out the carpet”, as it
were. Elvis is doing those dramatic, and hilariously funny opera-gestures
while singing it, and afterwards he informs us that he and Steve recently
did a tour of Italian opera-houses; “As you can see, we’ve practised a
lot....”

Well, it sure brings a whole new dimension to the term “Dramatic
pop-ballads”, but whether it’s suitable for kicking Celine Dion´s ass, I
can’t really say.....

What’s most striking to me at this moment is first of all what great shape
his voice is in, the man’s just keeps getting better and better. Sitting in
the front-row ( in the....ahem...”Press-section”) it’s also quite amusing
to watch his mimics and the way he “works” the audience.
Oh, and lest I forget, the songs, God, those songs.......

Great versions of both “The long honeymoon” and “The other side of the
telescope” follows. Then on to a totally heartwrencing “Little palaces” at
which the place is so still you could hear a needle drop, followed by a
roaring applause.

Steve leaves for awhile and Elvis sits down for a rendition of  “So like
Candy” that is better than I’ve ever heard. I actually starts to like the
song, which is new to me, it’s never been one of my faces. Then he ask for
all the lights to be dimmed in the house and on-stage. He says “Rolling
Stones have inflatable women, Pink Floyd, most fittingly have inflatable
pigs, and U2 have this McDonald arch, and beautiful it is,too. I, on the
other hand...have THIS”, at which he turns on a little torch-light. He
tells us the story of when he started writing songs,he used to go to the
darkest spot in the house and sat down and played. Then he does “Alison” in
such a quiet and subdued way he actually manages to breathe new life into a
song that I thought had been “done to death”.  It’s an extremely touching
moment, and when it’s over the audience duly responds by cheering, stamping
their feet and clapping wildly.

He goes on to “Radio Sweetheart” and incorporates “Jackie Wilson said”,
urging the audience to sing along in the chorus and the packed auditorium
gladly sings “Do do do dodo do do do do dodo....” like there was no
tomorrow. The applause nearly brought the house down, I kid you not !!!


This reaction to one man and his guitar ? Speaks volumes about Elvis´
artistic abilities, doesn’t it ??? Flying pigs, who needs them ??

Steve is back at the Steinway, and we’re treated to a great rendition of
“God, give me strength”.  By now, the audience seems to be only so much
putty in his hands, and the response is a thunderous applause and
“Yeehaws”. Elvis is thanking the audience for our response by the following
quip: “ Burt and I will return later on with 24 new songs like that
one.....”.

It’s “Veronica” and for me it’s something of a let-down compared to the
ones he’s done so far, but it’s quickly followed by another awesome
rendition of an old “gem”, this time “Shipbuilding”.


1. ENCORE


Elvis and Steve both bids the audience adieu, but we won’t hear of that, of
course. After some cheering,clapping and feet-stomping by the 1.500
assembled they returns with a really re-newed and fresh  “Everyday I write
the book”,then straight into “Accidents will happen”. At the end, when he
goes “I know....I know...I know....” he suddenly incorporates the first
verse of  “24 hours of Tulsa”, going “Dearest darling, I have to write to
say that I won’t be home...ever again”.  Then it’s the intro to “All this
useless beauty”, about the girl in the art-gallery, looking at all this
great art and then to her “late 20th.century lover....”. Tonight’s
rendition of it brings yet another storming applause, not least on account
of Elvis´ impeccable Italian, I guess....
The first encore ends with a fierce “Deep, dark truthful mirror” and again
they say thanks and goodnight.....

2.ENCORE

.....and again the audience, by now being worked into a frenzy by our boy,
will simply not hear of it. Elvis and Steve returns with versions of
“Almost blue” and “My funny Valentine”, the latter sung in such a way as to
send shivers down our spines. Truly wonderful. Then it’s “God’s comic”, and
Elvis` variety of facial-expressions would make Marcel Marceau green with
envy. He changes “Paradise’s endless shores” into “endless fjords” to fit
the occasion, and the audience laps it up and hoot and holler. Again it’s
sing-a-long time and Elvis beckons us all with “As you Norwegians are such
cheerful people, I thought you’d like to join me in the chorus..”,  When
they all learn what the chorus is ( “Now, I’m dead, now I’m dead” and “I
was scared, I was scared....”) they hoot and holler some more.
Now, don’t ever let me hear you say we don’t have some irony up here !!!

When they returned at the start of the 2-encore I put a note on-stage with
a request for my all-time fave “I´ll wear it proudly”, and at the end of
“God’s comic” he picks it up, tells us he’s had a request and plays a
beautiful rendition of it. Then it’s goodnight Voss once more, but the
audience simply refuses to leave the place and let him go. After awhile
they both re-appear, laughing, and  shaking their heads in disbelief. Well,
I guess they didn’t think Norwegians had it in us....how wrong they were !!!



3.ENCORE


Strapping on an electric Gibson it’s a mean “Shallow grave”, the crowd
swaying, singing and cheering him along. Then  it’s “Watching the
detectives”, complete with the theme-song for British TV-crime-series;
“Bergerac”, and alas, it IS getting very near the end. Elvis tells us that
he really has to go, ´cause he’s got a train to catch “to Leningrad”.

Now, the first part is true, ´cause post-show he pops up at the local
train-station and both he, Cait and Steve actually boards the same train as
me, but it’s not headed for Leningrad, only for Oslo....

Shutting down his mike and turning on all the lights (“so that we can see
who you are and recognise you next time we come around”), he ended with a
“non-amplified” and impossibly beautiful “Couldn’t call it unexpected
no.4”.  Walking from one end of the stage to the other he literally sang
his heart out, everyone could hear him perfectly, and when he ended with a
deep bow the crowd went bananas.  At the very end Elvis and Steve stood
centre-stage hand in hand and waved to the crowd. They received one red
rose each from the arrangers, and then it was all over.....

Oh, and before leaving the building I sneaked on-stage and nicked the
set-list.....