It' been said that Elvis and his backing band are a marriage made in heaven, and last night at The Point they gave us something old, something new, something borrowed and something almost blue. But the second honeymoon got off to a shaky start, as Costello and the Attractions tried to lull us into a false sense of security with "No Action," "Accidents Happen" and "Watching The Detectives." The band sounded suitably edgy for these early gems, but were a bit stilted during "Deep, Dark Truthful Mirror," not quite catching Costello's late-Eighties drift. "London's Brilliant Parade" was too cocky and clever even for a Blur album, and ended up wandering all over the place, needing a policeman to give it directions.
"Pony Street" was more straightforward, with Steve Nieve's arpeggiated keyboard lines pointing the way, and "Sulky Girl" was a triumph of sorts: a good song which actually worked well onstage. If you weren't familiar with the recent Brutal Youth album, then you'd have been lost by now, looking for a link to the past, but the clipped guitars and jerky keyboards of "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" may have provided a reminder of when Costello's music was all sneers and sarcastic asides.
But give me the subtle admonishments of "Clown Strike," with its gentle ribbing and trenchant hooks, or the veiled violence of "Kinder Murder," with its grazing guitar lines and wounding chorus. Soon, though, it's back to the oldies, and full marks to Costello for choosing the glam-slam of "Lipstick Vogue," but no kudos for the unprepossessing "You Belong To Me."
The encore opened with the country & western tones of "Good Year For The Roses," and Elvis looked every bit the English Garth Brooks in his red shirt and black waistcoat — all he needed was a hat. "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" teetered a little, while "13 Steps Lead Down" took a few tumbles, but Costello and The Attractions then delivered a sure-fire hat-trick with "Radio Radio," "Oliver's Army" and an epic reading of "Alison," complete with a medley of "Tracks Of My Tears," "Tears Of A Clown" and "Clowntime Is Over." Sounds like old El is trying to out-climax Van the Man himself.
"(What's So Funny About) Peace Love & Understanding" and the perennial "Pump It Up" made for a wildly upbeat ending, but there were too many moments during the whole show when everything seemed in danger of deflating.