Glasgow Herald, April 26, 1999

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Glasgow Herald

UK & Irish newspapers

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All hail Elvis, king of the crooners

Elvis Costello / Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

Around 20 years ago, Ross MacManus, a former big band singer with the Joe Loss Orchestra, brought his cabaret act to the British Telecom club in Edinburgh.

A few of those who had already recognised his son Declan as the finest songwriter of our generation managed to catch the performance. The curiosity was in the contrast. The younger man, in his stage guise as Elvis Costello, was an articulate venom-spitting product of the punk movement, while his father was an old-fashioned crooner with a repertoire of relatively recent standards.

A generation on and Declan Patrick MacManus is still trading as Elvis Costello but he has gone from working the same circuit as Johnny Rotten to rivalling Tony Bennett. At the very end of this concert, for the umpteenth encore of a two-and-a-half-hour set he discards the microphone and performs unamplified to Steve Nieve's piano accompaniment, just like Bennett's regular party piece to show off the acoustic of this venue. Where once the comparison would have been ludicrous, now Costello's highly individual voice is a well-trained instrument as attuned to rendering the work of others as his own songsmithery.

It is that back catalogue, however, that is the chief attraction. This besotted audience knew the words to obscure B-sides that are now 22 years old and was encouraged to join in to prove it.

Although structured around his recent collaborative disc with Burt Bacharach, Painted from Memory, the concert spanned his writing history and it is either astonishing value for money or desperately indulgent, depending on your point of view. Speaking as one of the committed, it was reassuring to talk to someone else, whose knowledge of Costello was limited to his few chart hits, and hear that this concert immediately claimed a spot in the top 10 of a lifetime's gig-going. No dissent from this quarter on that assessment.

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The Herald, July 22, 1996


Keith Bruce reviews Elvis Costello & Steve Nieve, Friday, April 23, 1999, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland.


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