They are unlikely bedfellows but the musical marriage between rock singer-songwriter Elvis Costello and the classical Brodsky Quartet is clearly one that’s made in heaven.
So far, this successful partnership has endured for 17 years, and on the evidence of the latest performance at The Anvil, it’s still going very strong.
The combination of Costello the voice and a superb classical string quartet produces an end result to marvel at — one whose rhythm can’t even be rattled by the sound and shards of an exploding stage spotlight.
This unexpected interruption aside, The Anvil proved why it’s the perfect venue for performers, and performances, like this. The excellent acoustics demanded the best from a combo who let the words and music, rather than any stage effects, do the talking – and both Costello and the quartet more than rose to the challenge.
I’m a fan of Costello’s mainstream tracks — many of which were performed with The Attractions — so it was particularly interesting to hear a number like "Accidents Will Happen," which opened the show, given a new and impressive classical dimension.
Not surprisingly, several numbers in the evening’s set were taken from the award-winning album The Juliet Letters that the singer and quartet collaborated on in 1993.
Costello, who is ageing gracefully and looked dapper in his smart suit and tie, packed a suitable vocal punch or lightweight touch depending on the song. He has been known as "The Man" but, if this performance is anything to go by, perhaps "The Voice" would be a more suitable soubriquet.
The Brodsky Quartet certainly looked and sounded the part too. Paul Cassidy on viola deserves particular praise for giving several of the tracks a new musical direction.
The main set ended with a powerful version of Costello’s classic "Shipbuilding," which made the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. Two lengthy encores — one of which included a track borrowed from Costello’s wife, jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall — rounded off a memorable evening in style.