Elvis Costello ended his world tour in Dublin last night., but it was like neither he nor his audience wanted it to end. Towards the end of a memorable gig in which he played not one but three encore sets, the now Ireland-based musician announced: "It's good to be back — it's good to be home."
Costello, easily one of Britain's best singer-songwriters and lyricists, opened a smooth but energy-driven night with his brilliant study of obsession, "I Want You," going from near silence to rage in a startling moment.
Costello was reunited with his old music buddies. The Attractions, a combination which on and off has been hard to equal in rock music, but at the end of a world tour was unbeatable. They galloped through Costello's 18-year repertoire with ease, even when he seemed to ad lib, or throw n a snippet here or there on a whim.
Unlike his Rile slot last summer, this time Costello had time to indulge his fans and play more than the token few hits from the past. Early comers were "Watching The Detectives" and "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea," while at the end of the first set he put away his guitar for the rarely performed "Shipbuilding." With Steve Nieve in ecstasy on piano, this was a Costello devotee's dream night.
Along the way he visited his new album, Brutal Youth, playing his latest single, "London's Brilliant Parade." "Pony St," "Sulky Girl," "Rocking Horse Road," "Kinder Murder" and "Clown Strike," extended into an impressive centrepiece.
His first encore set included his venture into country-tinged heartbreak of the understated kind, "Good Year For The Roses," from Almost Blue, followed up by a rollicking cover of "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down." Then he was dragged up on stage again and delivered "13 Steps Lead Down" and 1978's hit, "Radio Radio," his 1979 hit "Oliver's Army" and "Alison," his earliest masterpiece.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, he returned yet again with a cover of Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding" and his '78 hit, "Pump it Up," which ended the evening at fever pitch.
It way be a long time since he was one of the 70s New Wave heroes, and, at 40, the plump Costello may not be the gawky misfit of old, but he still gets under the skin of a host of characters. Whether lie's bitter and twisted, angry, desolate, cynical or caustically humorous, it's never less than the real thing.
He's still this year's model.