Before the main course a taste of T Bone Burnett — one man on acoustic guitar, and on one song a piano. A sort of Billy Bragg with an American accent, wider horizons, and the heritage of Bob Dylan and Hemingway, no one in Saturday night's crowd knew quite what to make of him. He was jolly good in a quirky way, a refreshing appetiser.
Over seven years Elvis Costello has matured from being the perennial outsider, awkward and bitter, splenetic and painfully personal in his lyrical concerns, into Britain's premier wordsmith, commentator, and social conscience.
Shorn of the heavyweight backing of his usual band, The Attractions, his solo — an assortment of guitars and keyboards — show allowed the resonances of his lyrics and the strength and variety of his basic song structures to impress.
We have always known the worth of what he has been singing about but on Saturday it was especially useful to hear him unadorned, unfettered, and never having to strain for the effects — aural or visual — which seemed to be a pre-requisite to a conventional rock show.
The secondary revelations were of the live subtlety and range of his voice, and of his warmth and humour. Overall the evening served as a welcome purge for the bloated body of rock performance, demanding as much concentration from the audience as its central character always gives.
Elvis Costello: disarmingly naked, witty and truthful. What more could anyone ask of Britain's great living songwriter?