I first saw E.C. three years ago when he was without the band and it was an intense and involving show. This time around Elvis is back with Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher and he has resurrected his "Revolver" show.
This is Elvis in a kitsch, gameshow-host, wise-cracking M.C. persona which maybe doesn't sound like something that he can pull off but trust me - he is solid gold, and has us right from the off with gentle ribbing of the Manchester audience and frequent asides about the state of the present Government. It's safe to say that Elvis is on safe territory here and we respond appropriately!
The band run on stage and tear into five songs without any pause before E.C. welcomes us P.T. Barnum-style and explains what we are about to enjoy.
Before you know it, his gorgeous accomplice has already led the first volunteer onto the stage and after some more schtick she is spinning the wheel to determine what the next song is gonna be: cue loads of requests and general melee from the audience until the wheel eventually stops and we are straight into... "Alison" which segues into "The Wind Cries Mary." Wow — top that!
The Wheel Of Fortune may deliver hits such as "Oliver's Army," "Everyday I Write The Book" and "Watching The Detectives" or land on a Jackpot selection such as "Time" or "Joanna," which means that a couple of songs with those words in the title will be played.
Costello also loves playing covers: it might be The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan although plenty others are all represented too.
There is also a "Joker" category which allows the lucky punter to choose whatever song they want! With over 150 songs (purely a guess from E.C.) this really is making-it-up-as-you-go...
Once the song has started the guest can either take a seat in the Society Lounge just beside Mr. Nieve or try to shake a tailfeather in the Hostage-To-Fortune Go-Go Cage. It is quite something to see how wide the gulf is between professional dancers and us enthusiastic and not quite so gifted amateurs, hah-hah!
That said, the other guys in the band did often make eye-contact with their onstage guests and relax them with a smile and a laugh: good on you chaps.
Of course as Elvis jokingly acknowledges a lot of his songs are full of rage, despair and generally miserable stuff at times so it is remarkable how the mood is changed just by altering the lighting and having the guests sit down.
Such is the respect that the audience have for Costello and also his control over them that he can step away from the mic and sing unamplified: I have only seen Tony Bennett pull this off successfully before.
He also wanders amongst us freely, all the while singing beautifully and even goes up to the punters upstairs and reappears with the next ecstatic guest. Just wonderful stuff all round.
Before you know what's what, almost 2½ hours have flown by and we really are all done. Very highly recommended!