"What do you mean you never heard of Return Of The Grievous Angel by Gram Parsons?!" So begins one of the many lunch time conversations with my younger colleagues about music. "I wasn't born when that album was released," comes the retort. "Neither was I," I lie. Some education was in order! Failing to get my act together to provide them with a lengthy discourse, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation, on the great lineage of British singer-songwriters from MacCartney/Lennon, via Townshend, Davies, Strummer/Jones, Weller, Morrissey/Marr through to Alex Turner, I thought that I'd partly rectify the situation by dragging one of my work pals, 18 years my junior, down to Hampshire to see Mr Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus. Well at least he knew "Oliver's Army," even though it came out several years before he shuffled on to this mortal coil.
Basingstoke may have a reputation as one of the most boring towns in the South East, but it certainly boasts one of the best-seated, live music venues in the region. The Anvil's crystal clear acoustics and great views, even from the back, means that it's one of my favourite venues for this type of gig.
First up it was the leather betrousered Rebecca and Megan Lovell and their drummer Marlon Patton (aka Larkin Poe). The Atlanta-based siblings were up and rocking from the start. Their short set partly made up for me missing them when they passed through Oxford a couple of months ago.
Having played close to 150 songs over the course of 35 solo gigs that have made up Costello's solo "Detour" you're always in for an unexpected treat. Tonight was no exception. Back in 1986 I still remember listening to King Of America for the first time, so an airing of "Suit Of Lights" is always very welcome; this was swiftly followed by "New Lace Sleeves" and then a rip-roaring rendition of The Pretenders' "Kid," possibly the first time that he's sung this song at a gig in its entirety.
The first encore saw the Lovell sisters return to accompany Costello through songs from the latter part of his career, including "Down On The Bottom" an unreleased Dylan/Costello co-write, apparently recorded as part of the The River: The New Basement Tapes project, although a studio version has yet to officially see the light of day. After a raucous "Pump It Up" and "Oliver's Army" inside the giant TV on stage, featuring Elvis's brother Ronan, the Lovell sisters returned gathering around one mic to add their sublime backing vocals and Megan's wistful slide guitar to "A Good Year For The Roses." The gig ended with one and all on stage for the now traditional finale of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding." As we wandered off to the station my friend seemed to have enjoyed the experience. A good beginning to his "education." Getting home just before midnight I started work on my PowerPoint presentation!
Middle-aged or older, apart from my friend and a few offspring who'd been dragged along by their parents.
It made me think..
Costello's stage garb of a three-piece suit, acrylic shirt and hat, none of which he removed, is mighty impressive given it was a warm mid-summer's evening.