Essex Echo, June 10, 2015

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Essex Echo
  • 2015 June 10

UK & Irish newspapers

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Costello is still at the top of his game...
and he's having fun, too


Tim Aves

It's a big place, the Cliffs, a big stage and a venue that demands an exceptional performer to cut it playing essentially solo and acoustic.

To say Elvis Costello proved himself equal to the challenge is a considerable understatement. For two hours and 19 minutes, he owned the Cliffs.

He did it with a ton of talent, enough guitars to stock a music shop, a baby grand piano — and a stage set dominated by a giant facsimile of an old TV set. At times, the screen flashed random song lines, at others, images of Costello's family and influences.

As Dr Feelgood's Lee Brilleaux flashed up, Costello told the crowd: "A local hero and somebody who helped put me where I am today," a reference to the fact the label which released his early records was founded on a £1,000 loan from Brilleaux.

At 9.46pm, Elvis entered the building. Scooping up an acoustic guitar, he gave us "Sneaky Feelings" from his 1977 debut album, then a beautifully fingerpicked "I Hope You're Happy Now," written a decade later.

The first of several wry, rambling and amusing anecdotes followed, leading into "Accidents Will Happen." This set the broad pattern for the evening... a story, a joke, followed by two or three songs, then more banter.

The highlight came as Costello switched to piano for a breathtakingly intense version of "Shipbuilding," his lament to the waste and cynicism of the Falklands War. It sounded as raw, jagged and emotionally charged as the day it was written.

Moving stage left, an armchair, a standard lamp and yet another parlour guitar awaited for three jazzier numbers, including Charles Aznovour's "She," before Costello turned up the heat.

He rocked into "Watching the Detectives," a looper pedal cleverly continuing the rhythm part as he added howling lead lines over the top.

Closing the set proper with "When I Write the Book," the first of four encores saw Costello joined by brother Ronan for "Good Year for the Roses," and "Oliver's Army" — enough to bring half the audience to its feet. The next encore saw Costello inside the giant TV, playing his trademark Fender Jazzmaster for "Hand in Hand," "Alison" and "Pump it Up."

Encore number three took him back to the piano for a peculiar minor-key version of "Side by Side," and a fabulously slow, soulful reading of Sam and Dave's "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down." The final encore climaxed with a tortured, feedback-laden "I Want You," and the return of brother Ronan for a singalong version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?"

Now 60, Costello is still at the height of his powers, his guitar playing fluent and versatile, that plangent voice, richer, deeper and more dynamic than ever. These days, he also displays something else — a very real sense of fun. An evening to treasure.

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The Echo, June 10, 2015


Tim Aves reviews Elvis Costello, solo and with Ronan MacManus, Thursday, June 4, 2015, Cliffs Pavilion , Southend-on-Sea, England.

Images

2015-06-10 Essex Echo clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

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