Elvis Costello, like many venerable artists, has had to learn to accept that the songs he wrote 25 years ago are the ones everyone wants to hear most. Bravely, he has never looked back, keeping moving and broadening the scope of his creativity as he gets older. Having turned 50 last year, he has lately achieved hit albums in both the jazz and classical charts, and announced last month that his next project will be an opera about Hans Christian Andersen. He has not forgotten his less high-minded fans, however, and plenty of last night's set was drawn from his more accessible, latest long-player, The Delivery Man. It has its roots in country but also frequently references the wiry rock sound of his youth.
Neither of the album's two collaborators, Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, were able to make it out, apparently because "the Network SouthEast train was late this evening", but the bleak duets "Heart Shaped Bruise" and "Scarlet Tide" were still touching sung alone. Costello seemed particularly to enjoy his lively new song "Monkey to Man," trying and failing to start a singalong among a disappointingly passive crowd. The classics he penned as a young man were still dotted around, but did not dominate.
"Blame It On Cain," "Radio, Radio" and "Watching the Detectives" all made welcome appearances. A soulful "Alison" was augmented with a bit of Elvis doing Elvis, when it morphed into "Suspicious Minds" halfway through. His voice has retained the old sneer, but there was also a power and richness there that he was happy to show off on smoky slow ones such as the Burt Bacharach collaboration "In the Darkest Place," which saw him walking away from the microphone and letting his singing fill the venue unamplified.
It is doubtful whether his forthcoming opera will provide any moments as universally stirring as "Shipbuilding" did here. But if these diversions keep music sounding fresh to Costello, everyone will be happy.