Never having seen Elvis Costello on stage before, but having long worn out the grooves in the old My Aim Is True record we had about the house, I'll admit that I expected more dancing. That raw rock 'n' roll energy he was still managing to flog to the British masses in the 1970s through sharp new wave blasts like "Welcome To The Working Week," "Blame It On Cain" and, funnily enough, "No Dancing," would have had no place in the swanky seated auditorium of the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre, at least in my head.
But Costello's career is and has always been a versatile, moving target. From soulful ballads like "She" and an acoustic rendition of "Oliver's Army," to moments designed to make us wonder “What did that guitar ever do to you?,” he and the Imposters crafted two hours so tasteful that they had a sold-out, tame theatre event brought to an eventual complete (and I did check) roaring standing ovation.
Although marred by some serious technical issues for the first two songs, Costello was quickly able to win us all back and ensure Festival Of Voice closed on a real blinder. The only real disappointment still lingered in the venue's PA mix — Costello has some serious guitar skill, completely undermined by a lack of volume. It was really frustrating to sit there and see what you were missing as he worked the neck, and while it wouldn't surprise me if the theatre didn't see its share of jaw-dropping axe solos, they should probably be looking into sorting out just in case they ever book Van Halen and the crowd pulls the place to shreds. Happily, the Impostors are an extremely gifted unit, and they and Costello's absolute truck of a voice (twice its ideal volume in the PA) were more than enough to carry the occasion.
A personal highlight was a gorgeous version of "Alison," stripped-down to just Costello, his guitar, and his two incredible backup singers sharing one microphone, possibly cementing that song as one of my all-time favourites forever.