Elvis Costello has finally managed to weave the various strands of his talents and vision into a spectacular and all-embracing live act. While Friday night's show was by all accounts a relatively straightforward, if excellent, concert, Saturday's performance was quite simply stunning.
It started with a solo set, which included a superbly rendered conflation of "New Amsterdam" and "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," during which Elvis indulged in an unprecedented level of apparently idle banter with the audience — explaining his series of peculiar "holiday slides," pausing mid-song to expand on some of his more curious lyrical allusions and giving some snappy retorts to a couple of hecklers.
Then it was goodbye to Elvis as witty raconteur and welcome instead to his alter-ego Napoleon Dynamite, the archetypal, leering game-show host, bringing us, with the aid of his toupeed assistant Xavier Valentine, and the consummately proficient Attractions, all the over-exuberant excess of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook.
To Napoleon's exhortations that "dreams come true," members of the audience span the wheel, and then either danced in the "go-go cage" to the randomly selected hits, or relaxed in the "society lounge" with its cocktails, cable television and Irn Bru. Julia wanted "Red Shoes," but got the "nice medium tempo choice" of "Secondary Modern," to which she danced uneasily with "Colin from Mayfield." Aided by a little cheating from the ever helpful Napoleon, Tina got her dream of Alison. There was "Hand In Hand," "Detectives," "Less than Zero" and "Mystery Dance," to name but four, before the audience were coaxed through a rendition of "Twist And Shout," and the set ended with "Pump It Up."
Everything was gloriously over the top and worked on so many levels that it was difficult to tell at times just who was being sent up. Elvis toyed with the very concept of the "rock concert," playing some of his greatest songs, but at the same time indulging in a multi-dimensional exploration of the worst excesses of modern television culture and consumerism. Or at least I think that's what he did. Either way, Elvis is back in February with the Confederates for what promises to be, as Mr Dynamite might have put it, "one of the most fantabulous musical extravaganzas of all time." I'll be there.