"Forget about Buddha, Allah, Jesus and Jehovah / Hurry down doomsday, the bugs are taking over…"
Like a new wave Nostradamus, Elvis Costello has a song for every calamity. He opens one of the last encores the UK will see before its live music shutdown with 1991's B-movie vision of insect invasion "Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)," as close to a pandemic primer as rock 'n' roll has produced.
Thanking us for "risking life and limb" to be here, Costello promises to "keep playing till they shut us down," and dives into the set with a hurtling-towards-the-abyss-urgency. Leaning heavily on 1981's Trust, he opens with a burst of early favourites that threatens to outpace his voice — he seems dragged along by the bumpers of "Accidents Will Happen" and "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" but still savours the dynamic drawls of "Green Shirt." He's more comfortable mid-set, letting his tremulous voice fly on sedate, soulful recent songs such as "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter," or previewing his in-the-works musical with the stirring title track "A Face In The Crowd." More bridging material from his arch, caustic beard years ('86 to '94) would have softened the clash between snarl and croon, but it's a stylistic jolt Costello has pulled off many times, and a closing run involving "Pump It Up," "Oliver's Army" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding" remains a well-honed pulse pumper. In your face, doomsday.