Elvis Costello's concert in the National Stadium on Saturday night looked in jeopardy just 30 minutes into his set when he had to leave the stage because of chronic voice problems. However, he returned five minutes later to complete an unusually long performance of almost two hours.
A hoarse Costello, backed by his band The Attractions, played a varied set, mixing favourites from the past seven years with songs from his new album Goodbye Cruel World. After a lack-lustre start, it took a long struggle before the show reached the intensity that has come to be expected at a Costello gig. A mellow version of "The Only Flame In Town," from the new album, and a stomping rendition of Dave Edmund's "Girls' Talk," were the only songs that stood out in the early part of the evening.
Eight songs after the start, Costello had to take a break to soothe his throat. When he returned he called the seated crowd down to the front of the stage much to the displeasure of the Stadium's security staff who were busy for the rest of the night encouraging people to resume their seats.
From here on, a more enthusiastic Costello took control, playing splendid versions of "Inch By Inch," "Joe Porterhouse," and "Worthless Thing," all from the new album. His huskiness did not prevent him from giving a solid version of popular 1971 single "Alison," ending the set. A huge applause eventually brought him back on stage.
He then treated the audience to five more songs — the first two solo — including "Peace In Our Time" and "Shipbuilding" both from his new L.P. and which show that he can still write.
A powerful version of hit single "Oliver's Army" and an enthusiastic "Pump It Up" ended the night and made up for the pallid start. Elvis Costello vowed that the next time he came to Ireland he would be in good voice. It will be worth waiting for that occasion.