What are we to make of Elvis Costello's cosy little set-up? Well, it looks pretty sweet - so many guitars to choose from! There's even an 'ON AIR' box in the corner! But we're distracted. Not by Costello's wonderful suit and hat (navy and white, in case you were wondering). No, it's the man's choice of footwear that's caught our eye. Pink, lads. The bloke is wearing fluorescent pink shoes. And I want a pair. But enough about style.
This isn't Elvis Costello's spectacular spinning songbook; it's more 'an evening with' kinda deal - it says so on the ticket. Solo, acoustic, electric and intimate, with a very special guest included. "It's me!" says Costello, shuffling from centre-stage rock 'n' roller to seated troubadour. Cracking sense of humour on that one.
Even after four decades in the business, the bespectacled British strummer remains a giddy and exuberant force in live music, that mid-Atlantic, showman twang of his having lost none of its flavour, fun or vigour. Costello (60) admits he was just going to sing songs about love tonight. Love…and deceit…and lies. "But I've only got one evening," he jests.
Still, he does it all. He even throws in a loop station, for good measure. Sometimes, that far-reaching songbook of his leaves us scratching our heads. But you know he'll eventually roll out the power pop hits, even if he's grown to dislike one or two ("Everyday I Write the Book").
For just one man and a guitar, he sure does make a lot of noise, and occasionally, the sound lets him down. But Costello's voice won't be bouncing off the walls all night, and eventually, he finds his groove, posing and preening and generally making the best of what is, at times, a tough crowd (it takes a while for this lot to sing along). But again, we'll get there.
The golden goodies undergo something of a remix. "Veronica" and "She" are among the pile, but the real treat is a cracking rendition of "Alison" (that gorgeous refrain still works wonders). And yes, "Oliver's Army" sounds super on just an acoustic guitar.
Even when armed with a new song ("The Last Year of My Youth"), Costello keeps us enthralled, such is the power of this bloke's presence and presentation.
Oh, and we'd have come just for the storytelling (there's a one-man comedy show in Costello yet, we suspect). Tucked in between tales of his old man, and early gigs on the club circuit, is a delightful yarn about the first time Costello heard himself on the radio. Sounded like an exciting time. Clearly, it still is.