Financial Times, February 3, 2005

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Financial Times

UK & Irish newspapers

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Elvis Costello

Mousonturm, Frankfurt

Richard Milne

We shall soon have Elvis Costello the opera composer, writing a piece based on the life of Hans Christian Andersen. We have just had Elvis Costello the writer of orchestral pieces and torch songs. We have even had him as the media celebrity, following his marriage to the Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall.

But thankfully, as this concert amply demonstrated, we still have Elvis Costello the rock star. Mixing humour, playfulness and his trademark bile, he put on a 2½-hour performance as satisfying and stylish as any you are likely to see.

Crucial to Costello's success and current rude musical health is his comfort with his earlier work as a self-confessed angry young man. Too many artists petulantly turn their back on what made them great in the first place. But here Costello was happy to play the hits — there were cracking versions of "(The Angels Wanna Wear) Red Shoes" and "Watching The Detectives" and a shimmering take on "I Want You" — as well as fare from his last, rather good album The Delivery Man.

Not that Costello is a man to rest on his past glories. This was a decidedly rock show but he still found space to fit in country with "A Good Year For The Roses," boogie and touches of gospel in an eclectic display. Dressed in a dark purple shirt and wearing rose-tinted glasses, Costello managed to shift his wonderful biting voice in and out of the plethora of styles with ease, making musical infidelity sound like a virtue.

Just as important to him, though, is his backing group, where Costello continues his long and fruitful relationship with the keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas — both from the Attractions. Nieve, in particular, was superb as Costello's foil, whether in his delicate play of the melodica or thumping of the organ in a frenetic and tight "Peace, Love and Understanding."

Classical music may be increasingly tempting him, but strap an electric guitar on him and Costello is still at his best.

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Financial Times, February 3, 2005


Richard Milne reviews Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Sunday, January 30, 2005, Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Germany.


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