Oh I just don't know where to begin.
Elvis used to be disgusted, now he tries to be amused. One of the major changes since the Nashville shows back in 1977 is in his attitude towards his audience. This corresponds to a greater maturity in his lyrics; angriness and vengeance are partly replaced by compassion and a greater understanding of human frailties. This honesty makes Elvis's work far more relevant to his audience today. No more white lies, alibis or sneaky feelings that he can't let show.
I had better lay my cards on the table. For the last five years, Elvis Costello has been my ace of club(land)s. There is nobody around to match him. He has been a most prolific songwriter and his albums have all been amongst the best of their particular year; especially his Motown LP Get Happy and the latest offering IbMePdErRoIoAmL (not to mention This Year's Model and...)
Reading my notes after the gig, they seem tittered with the words ace, majestic, wonderful, orgasmic... Superlatives are not enough. I still get as excited as I was when I waited with baited breath for the release of "Watching the Detectives." Although the novelty of seeing Elvis has worn off, the live show is better then ever. Subtlety has been added to the finely honed attack of the Attractions.
As Elvis has climbed from height to height, the great British record buying public, in their infinite wisdom, have deserted him. Perhaps the line from "...and In Every Home," "Oh heaven preserve us, because they don't deserve us" is directed at them. To make up for this, the band have concentrated on pleasing the hordes more then anytime in the past. They only played less than half of their new LP, throwing in loads of old songs in a set noticeably longer then on previous tours. To their credit, they still performed five songs unrecorded by them. The most difficult part of the proceedings must have been deciding which songs to leave out.
A highspot for me is the great improvement in Elvis's phrasing and delivery since his excursion to Nashville. We were treated to some stunning vocal performances, notably the pain in "Kid About It." Passion has not gone out of fashion. It would be difficult to believe that he could do this night after night. if I had not witnessed it. I was exhausted just watching him. Steve Nieve's tacky Sale of the Century organ on "Temptation" followed in sharp contrast.
It was noticeable that the songs from Get Happy and onwards came across far better live. Elvis couldn't seem to work up much enthusiasm for "Alison." I'm not convinced that having someone mouth the lyrics in my ear, out of key, enhanced my enjoyment of the song. It reminded me of play-goers who insist on showing-off to the rest of the audience by reciting Shakespeare word by word. People seem intent on ruining the best.
Elvis made a regal exit with "Imperial Bedroom." It ended with him singing "au revoir" as he shuffled off the stage. Not surprisingly, this proved to be prophetic and we did see him again for the encores. He played two, of seven songs each. "Man Out of Time" sounded like the single of the year, and it was played by a band realising this fact — absolute control. During "Shipbuilding," Elvis sang about being back at Christmas. I will too, as I can't think of a better present then seeing him at the Royal Albert Hall on Boxing Day.
Elvis finished with "Clowntime is Over." It would have been impossible for him to follow that. My final memory is of a pleading figure plaintively wailing "I believe, I believe..." as the set finished. You never see the lies that you believe. My vision of him can't get any clearer.
Trust Elvis and get happy as his aim is true.