He looked like a cross between a young, friendly Kissinger and Buddy Holly, a solemn, slightly portly figure in thick-rimmed glasses, short hair and a dinner jacket. His feet were apart and body motionless except for a right hand prodding the air in the direction of a keyboard player in crewcut and dark glasses, who looked as if he might well mug him if they weren't on stage.
Five years after recording his first album, Elvis Costello, that most distinguished younger statesman of pop, had actually been allowed into the Albert Hall, a rare venue these days for such a show.
But then Costello's range stretches far beyond the limitations of most contemporary music, as he demonstrated in a thrilling, exhausting concert that was as high on emotion and sudden switches of style as it was low in the changes of Costello's expression.
After the Nashville excursion of Almost Blue, and the immaculate, cool but surprisingly unpassionate songs of Imperial Bedroom, it was as if Costello had decided to prove that he still deserves his massive reputation. A blitz of songs — sometimes with three or four run together, or with old favourites refreshed by a new musical setting — constantly changed the mood between the lively and the anguished.
He used some songs to pull the audience to their feet, others to prove that crooners don't always have to be slushy — particularly if the lyrics are as tortured but as unsentimental as those of "Long Honeymoon," and if the backing is as sensitive but attacking as that provided by the Attractions.
Along with the barrage of personal songs there was a brave excursion into politics with "Shipbuilding" — a Falklands-inspired piece, co-written by Costello and Clive Langer and recently recorded by Robert Wyatt on the theme of war helping unemployment but leading to far greater losses.
For his encores, Costello was first backed just by Steve Naeve's piano and ended by adding a horn section to the band.
One day Costello may put a foot wrong, but he hasn't done so yet.