1. Leonard Bernstein assortment
2. Accidents Will Happen - EC on acoustic guitar
3. Painted From Memory
4. All This Useless Beauty - EC on acoustic guitar
5. Adagio from Symphony No. 5
6. Upon A Veil Of Midnight Blue
7. Put Away Forbidden Playthings


8. Waltz Of The Flowers, from Nutcracker Suite
9. I Still Have That Other Girl
10. What’s Her Name Today
11. Almost Blue
EC + SN:
12. This House Is Empty Now (20:00 concert only)
13. Bolero

Encore: EC, SN + SRSO:
14. The Birds Will Still Be Singing


5 January, 1999; 16:00 and 20:00 (broadcast on radio P2)
Berwaldhallen, Stockholm
Elvis Costello With Steve Nieve and The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor - Ion Marin
- John Everingham©1999

Elvis has played previously with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (SRSO) for the "Trettondagskonsert", in the concert billed as The Meeting of Masters. On 6 January 1996 he shared the stage with Anne Sophie von Otter and the SRSO, in a performance that was highly charged and exciting. The experience was so enjoyable that the SRSO invited Elvis back to Stockholm, but this time with Steve Nieve sharing the stage.

These latest concerts started with an introduction from the presenter, followed by an assortment of short pieces written by Leonard Bernstein, performed by the SRSO. These were interesting, and set the scene for the diversity of the evening.

At both concerts, Elvis’ first appearance on stage was greeted by a huge applause of appreciation. For the early concert, Elvis wore a black suit and tie, and bright purple shirt. For the second concert he wore a tuxedo, immediately chatting with that audience, joking that he never imagined he would be playing a guitar wearing a tuxedo. He continued, saying that they had rearranged some of the program from that which was printed, but he was sure that we trusted him. He further won the confidence of the crowd, saying, "If you feel screaming mayhem coming over you during the number, please feel free to give forth to your feelings. (Scream from crowd.) See, I told you! (Chuckles from crowd)."

Accidents Will Happen, which Steve had orchestrated, included several lines from the Bacharach song 24 Hours From Tulsa. Elvis was in good voice for this very nice arrangement.

He put down the guitar, and launched into a powerful version of Painted From Memory. The orchestra supported the song very well, with Steve’s piano gentle, and there were no distracting backup singers. EC’s voice was much stronger by this time.

On All This Useless Beauty, we heard an arrangement by Rob Schrock of Burt Bacharach’s band, performed for the first time in Stockholm. For this song Elvis again took his guitar.

As in all songs, the audience listened intently, feeling every last note of the songs. The printed program meant there were no annoying claps of recognition at the start of the songs, and every song was followed with very long applause.

The performance by SRSO of the Gustav Mahler piece was lilting and peaceful. It was a good counterpiece to the previous Costello work.

Upon A Veil Of Midnight Blue was introduced by the same anecdote as at the 1996 concert, about how he wrote the song for Charles Brown, and how Charles had edited a verse down to one line "I find it hard to think when I drink". The version played was orchestrated by Bill Frisell.

The next piece, Put Away Forbidden Playthings, was written several years ago by Elvis for the Southbank festival. It was originally written for viole, and has been released by Fretwork. Elvis said he had "No intention to sing it as a counter-tenor or soprano". The song is about putting away the beautiful things of the past and not recognising them for what they are. Elvis was very reflective during the introduction, holding his head, feeling the music and looking into space. It is a very dramatic piece, with an unusual vocal line. It certainly was a thrill to hear it performed by Elvis for the very first time.

Most people took up the offer of free champagne which was served during intermission.

The second half of the concert was introduced by the SRSO with the well-known Waltz Of The Flowers by Tchaikovsky.

There was a change to black shirt and black and gold tie by Elvis for the first concert. He still sported a tuxedo throughout the second concert. The song I Still Have That Other Girl was introduced by the presenter as, "Unfortunately Burt Bacharach couldn’t be here tonight, but EC+SN could". Another fine performance, at the end of which Elvis recognised Steve’s contribution, inviting him to take a separate bow.

Burt and Elvis wrote the next song by "fighting over the white notes and black notes on the piano". The person in the song asks himself the musical question "What’s Her Name Today?" He was in full voice for this delivery, and Steve was also in top form.

Almost Blue stole pieces from an earlier Brodsky Quartet arrangement, and also stole the show. The violin piece at the beginning and the piano were both tasteful, with the orchestra swelling in and out, but never interfering with the mood of the song.

There was thunderous applause after this song. It was the last EC song listed in the program, and after the first call-in, when it became obvious that the audience were not going to be satisfied with that, Elvis and Steve came back again, Steve clutching his song folder. We knew that they would play another song, but since they had not arranged any further pieces with the orchestra, we were treated to only voice and piano on This House Is Empty Now. And what a treament it was. They certainly were free to go wherever they wanted, without the confines of the orchestral backing arrangement, Steve responding instantly to suit the mood; the ending being a fine example of this.

Bolero is a stirring piece from Ravel, and the SRSO performance was well received by this now highly charged audience.

For an encore The Birds Will Still Be Singing was replayed from the previous Trettondagskonsert, in an arrangement by Richard Harvey. It surpassed that previous performance in both beauty and power. Elvis’ voice seems to increase in strength and quality.

They took many bows, as the applause continued. As is the Swedish custom, the main performers were presented with flowers. Elvis was used to this after his previous concert in 1996, and clutched his bouquet, smiling widely. The audience wanted more, and tried in vain to get another number, but without success.

Both of the two concerts on this day were wonderful. The first was a warm-up for the latter, which was broadcast on Swedish radio. The performances and audience both reflected this, with the second concert being more vibrant and exciting. Elvis’ tuxedo in the second concert reflected its importance. The first performances of Put Away Forbidden Plaything make these concerts memorable, with the highlights being Almost Blue and This House Is Empty Now.

Meeting Elvis after the concert and getting his autograph provided the finishing touches to a wonderful day for me.