I should probably declare an interest before I start: Elvis is my favourite artist of all time, and I have seen him probably 30 or 40 times from 1978 onwards. That's not to say that I love everything he does — I remember a particularly grim night at the Bournemouth BIC in perhaps 2005 after which I swore I would never see him again — but I do think his back catalogue stands comparison with anybody's, alive or dead.
And this solo show, the final night of four at the swanky London Palladium, drew extensively on that back catalogue, encompassing 30 songs from all periods of his career over 2 hrs 40 mins. Even Elvis can't resist the dread phrase "and here's a new song," featuring a couple from a new musical he is writing, but otherwise it was an impressively varied set showcasing all his many styles, and while it of course includes the big hits — "Oliver's Army," "Good Year For The Roses," "Pump It Up," "She" – he also knows that his devoted fanbase love to hear obscurities from the dusty corners of half-forgotten albums. Rare outings for fan favourites "Hoover Factory" (about the Tesco building on the Western Avenue), "So Like Candy" and "Almost Blue" joined a setlist that was about 70-80 percent different across the four nights. Generally the only accompaniment was his guitar playing, but he is now also an accomplished pianist and switched instruments for several tunes including an impassioned version of the classic Falklands War lament "Shipbuilding."
Early warning signs that a slightly croaky throat might curtail the performance thankfully proved a false alarm, and Elvis continued regardless picking songs from across his career. Nowadays he is very far from the surly, chippy persona he liked to inhabit early on in his career, when as he says during one of the many inter-song anecdotes, he was trying to rid the world of alcohol "by drinking it," and he is a genial and entertaining stage presence. He is joined for several songs of the wide-ranging encores by support band sisters Larkin Poe, who I am afraid I and some of my immediate neighbours found rather trying, but otherwise this was a triumphant return to London for Elvis and several standing ovations showed how much the crowd enjoyed it. He finished, as he always does whatever format the show, with a rousing singalong cover of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding," leaving the audience to go happily into the night.