Almost 40 years ago, vocal trio Afrodiziak were, alongside a horn section, an extra ingredient of the expanded line-up of The Attractions for Elvis Costello's Punch the Clock album. At 65 years old the canny Mr C has again added two fine backing singers, Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee, to his touring group and they are now more essential support for his own lead vocal. Initially, in fact, we could have heard rather more of them in what was a ropey sound mix for "Strict Time" and "Clubland," two tracks from 1981's Trust album, which this "Just Trust" tour is emphatically not showcasing, according to the man himself.
It was on songs recorded with Kuroi and Lee, "Suspect My Tears" and "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter," from the Grammy Award-winning 2018 set, Look Now, that they came into their own, setting the template for the triumphant final third of a full two hours of music. A soulful sequence from "Burnt Sugar," through Get Happy!!'s "High Fidelity," and Trust's "Whisper to a Scream" to Punch the Clock's "Everyday I Write the Book" (as recently heard at the Lyceum next door in hit theatre show Pride & Prejudice) was when the evening really began to soar.
Costello ranged widely over his back catalogue, with artwork projected above the band identifying some tracks for the benefit of the uninitiated, and also including Annabel Jankel's acclaimed animated video for early hit "Accidents Will Happen." The setlist threw in some curve balls, following melodic moments with more brutal material like Blood & Chocolate's "Uncomplicated," and a terrific extended dub-plate of "Watching the Detectives."
There was political subtext to be found too, running through Momofuku's "American Gangster Time" to "Shipbuilding" (when Costello's vocals only really found their correct pitch off-mic at the end) and the closing sequence's "Oliver's Army" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding."
A little taster of his latest tilt at musical theatre, with the title song from the Broadway-bound Face In The Crowd, was prefaced by a barbed line about being thought a Walter Mitty character in those ambitions, while the back stage imagery took on a bleaker tone in the show's closing moments, underlining the darker message in the poppiest songs.